Building a strong relationship with Engineering x Product Management
How to collaborate with Tech Leads and Architects
Product Managers should be having frequent conversations with their Tech Leads / Architect counterparts. PMs and Tech Leads are strategic partners to achieve a product vision. Following the words of Wayne Gretzky
Your focus should be skating towards where the puck is moving.
The best Tech Leads are strategic, product-focused and effective at planning. Tech Leads would have designations such as Senior Engineering Lead or Staff Engineer in your organization. (The Architecture Role by Marty Cagan)
As a Product Lead, your responsibility is to help shape architecture design. In turn, Tech Leads will shape your product roadmap.
While everyone understands the goal of a product roadmap, architecture design is equally critical. It is a future-looking document. It supports the product strategy, improves development agility and acts as a reference for engineering teams. Product roadmap and architecture design are living documents. Due to their nature, they should be regularly and consistently reviewed and revised. These two documents should be reviewed together since they support each other.
Example scenario: You are a PM for a task management software. You are working on To Do list feature for consumers.
Assume that you are a Product Manager for a task management software. Your focus is on the Task List, which enables consumers to manage their to-do list.
Your typical conversations with Tech Leads should include both long-term and short-term actions.
Long term - Product Strategy and major areas of investment to support the strategy
Product Manager: “Our new product strategy focuses on moving upmarket. We will be changing the pricing strategy. We will be monetizing engagement, instead of our current fixed price model.”
“We need to update the billing system to support pricing based on engagement. It will be an important area of investment.”
Moving upmarket has the benefit of targeting users who are willing to spend more on the task management software. In order to do this, the team would need to focus on scale and resilience, new product capabilities and a billing engine.
Product Manager & Tech Lead discussion: The outcome of this discussion should be to kick off product and engineering discovery to support this change in strategy. The result would be an updated product roadmap and architectural design.
Short term - Blockers to software agility
Product Manager: “It takes three months to develop and roll out support for GIFs. It takes more than a year to allow collaborators on to-do lists. “
Product Manager: “Customers are complaining about latency in task updates. “
This is a symptom of an outdated and complicated architecture design. The engineering teams need time to identify the right code to update for new content types like GIFs. Or the user management service does not support more than one user per to-do list. They need to refactor large chunks of software code to support collaborators. There is also a lot of time spent on agreeing on the right design for user management.
If you were having long term discussions, the architecture design would have been updated in time to support additional content types and user management. Lack of agility might also be a result of short cuts or hacks taken by the team in the interest of time.
Product Manager and Tech Lead agreement: The foundational changes and paying off tech debt should be planned as part of the product roadmap. The engineering design needs to be reviewed to support software agility.
Thinking about the ongoing relationship between a Product Manager and Tech Lead is essential. They are your partner in working with you to ensure everyone hits the product goal or product goal is achieved. Consider having frequent and direct conversations. Make sure to cover upcoming needs, and revisit and update documents for transparency between you both and your teams.
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