I have worked with a number of companies with strong technical or engineering teams that the direction of Product Development have largely been driven by these teams.
I have been most effective as a Product Manager when I have been able to establish strong relationships with the technical teams in these types of companies. Because I am attracted to technology, I work hard to understand how it all fits together, be it network infrastructure, internet protocols, web page design, caching systems or security systems.
The danger with this approach is losing focus of how the solution will be experienced by the customer. Does the solution met a customer’s need or are they self indulgent explorations of new technology toys? I see it as the Product Manager’s role to be able to tell the difference.
If the customer’s requirement is an uninterrupted, fast network service, as the Product Manager it is my job to make sure that there are plans to allow that to happen. I do not need to know the exact specifics of how it is to be done. I have to trust the teams that are responsible for making it happen.
To me the answer to Marty’s question is that I need to be just technical enough that I establish the mutual trust that is required for the Product Delivery and engineering teams to deliver on my customer’s requirements.
The challenge for Product Managers also extends to other stakeholder areas: “Are you Marketing enough?”, “Are you Customer Support enough?”, “Are you Financial enough?” The Product Manager needs to be able to speak fluently in all of these (and more) different stakeholder realms to build trust across the organisation.
No one said it was going to be an easy job. 😎