According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Technical Program Management field is set to grow by 15% by 2024. This is expected to increase the demand for adept technical program managers. The position of a Technical program manager is typically held by individuals at mid-to-senior levels. They support organizations in achieving their product objectives. Technical program managers collaborate with leadership and different teams to launch initiatives and oversee their progress. But how do they do so? What are the skills required? How much do get compensated?
We’ve covered it all in this blog!
What Does A Technical Program Manager Do?
Technical program managers (TPMs) are professionals within a business who manage one or multiple projects. Their responsibilities range from defining project requirements to assessing the final product. As technology is integral to various industries, many companies hire TPMs to ensure effective project execution. Collaborating closely with engineers, TPMs also play a key role in establishing technology and product architecture for organizations.
Responsibilities of a Technical Program Manager
Technical Program managers frequently collaborate with business stakeholders to comprehend their program requirements. These may encompass internal system technologies, as well as products available for customer purchase. When delineating project requirements, the technical program manager typically assesses resource requirements, project duration, and staffing needs for development and testing.
Technical Program managers are tasked with managing various elements of a program, including its schedule. While a program may comprise multiple projects culminating in its completion, the TPM is responsible for overseeing the overarching schedule to ensure seamless progress. This involves facilitating collaboration between technical teams and individuals from other departments who may contribute input.
Defining Project Scopes
Within a program, TPMs oversee various projects, each encompassing different phases of development and testing required before the technology is deployable. Technical program managers are responsible for delineating the timelines and scopes of individual projects, including resource allocation. For instance, a project phase might entail coding, technical quality assurance (QA), user QA, and product iteration as part of its scope.
The TPM within a company may need to produce various reports tailored to different stakeholders within the organization. For instance, they might deliver high-level schedule and budget reports to leadership while providing detailed bug reports to IT managers. These reports serve as valuable tools for informing decisions regarding future progress and monitoring team performance quality.
Testing and Reviewing Solutions
TPMs are involved in testing and reviewing potential solutions within their program, which includes both user and code testing. While they typically have QA teams to handle detailed code requirements, TPMs conduct general testing to verify that the product aligns with the expectations outlined in the business requirements document.
Skills Required for a Technical Program Manager
Becoming a technical program manager requires proficiency in several essential skills.
Technical program managers leverage their technical expertise to supervise product development within a company. This entails possessing a comprehensive understanding of the organization’s technology capabilities and technical intricacies such as coding, even if hands-on coding tasks are not part of their role. This knowledge enables them to effectively support their teams and accurately plan for new programs.
Communication is paramount for technical program managers who frequently interact with individuals from various teams, including product strategists, developers, managers, and vendors. At times, they must effectively convey complex technical concepts to non-technical stakeholders, such as business users, to elucidate critical information that may influence product design or delivery.
Program managers frequently analyze and address potential risks during project oversight. This may entail evaluating the feasibility of accepting a particular risk to advance product development. In the realm of technical programs, considerations may involve assessing the probability that a product bug or feature could impact sales or determining if allocating additional resources to a program might lead to a budgetary breach.
While program management typically encompasses numerous smaller projects, many of the skills required for a Technical Project Manager (TPM) role remain applicable. Depending on the organizational context, TPMs may employ project management frameworks like agile project management, facilitating the release of features in shorter iterations to adapt to evolving business needs or changes. TPMs often leverage a subset of additional skills, including schedule management, communication, problem-solving, and strategic thinking.
While primarily focused on technical aspects, TPMs also integrate fundamental business knowledge into their roles. This entails comprehending organizational structures within business and technology departments, as well as basic financial concepts such as budgeting and profitability. By acquiring proficiency in these diverse business domains, TPMs collaborate with leadership to formulate product strategies and timelines conducive to business growth.
As program managers supervise the design, development, and deployment of new technology, they inherently assume leadership roles across interdisciplinary teams. Demonstrating robust leadership entails the capacity to inspire individuals and devise inventive problem-solving approaches. Crafting program roadmaps delineating tasks and milestones aids in clarifying roles and goals, fostering a collective commitment to product success among team members.
Misconceptions About The Responsibilities of Technical Program Manager
A common misconception about technical program managers is the tendency to view them in binary terms, either solely engaged in coding or completely detached from it. In reality, the technical depth of TPMs varies along a spectrum, often dictated by the project and client requirements. Some projects demand leaders with moderate technical proficiency, sufficient to grasp technology architecture and trade-offs. Conversely, others involve deeply technical products necessitating a comprehensive understanding of architecture, logging, configuration, and coding. Moreover, there exists a middle ground, underscoring the importance for consulting providers to ask probing questions to ascertain the specific needs and assign the appropriate TPM accordingly.
How Do Technical Program Managers Differ From Product Managers?
To start, let’s analyze the typical characteristics and duties associated with product managers and technical program managers.
Responsibilities and Characteristics of Product Managers
- Contributes to shaping the product’s vision.
- Drives prioritization of features.
- Manages customer feedback processes, including trials and events.
- May supervise product owners who handle specific engineering workstreams. For instance, a product manager might oversee the development of the next-generation Xbox, while product owners focus on aspects like Xbox Live, controllers, networking, etc.
- Proficient in project and program management.
- Oversees product-related financials and strategic planning.
- Technical product managers or technical product owners fulfill analogous roles but for highly technical products.
Responsibilities and Characteristics of Technical Program Managers
- Typically a former software engineer.
- Often works closely with developers.
- Usually focused on engineering execution, planning, and design.
- May align more with the business side depending on technical proficiency and delivery requirements.
- Handles all delivery aspects of one or more technical projects.
- Primarily engaged with technical companies utilizing SOA and microservices architecture.
- Responsible for driving program progress and providing support for issues.
- Drives technical dependencies necessary for project launch.
- Manages the full life-cycle of projects, from idea generation to deployment, optimizing the release value stream.
- Facilitates the establishment of technologies, tools, and processes for Continuous Integration and Deployment and a DevOps operating model.
- Involved in non-functional aspects of software delivery such as application telemetry, performance, reliability, resilience, security, and compliance.
Educational Requirements for A Technical Program Manager
Technical program managers may hold various degrees, with many positions mandating a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in fields like business administration, business management, or computer science. While not obligatory, certain roles may prefer candidates with master’s degrees. Additionally, some companies may stipulate specific certifications such as Project Management Certification and Program Management Certification.
What Is The Common Career Trajectory for Technical Program Managers?
Most TPM job descriptions typically mandate a bachelor’s degree in a technical field like computer science, although some positions are moving away from such potentially exclusionary requirements. Irrespective of their degree, TPMs are expected to possess a technical background and have project management experience and product management or development knowledge. While some roles emphasize in-depth knowledge of specific technology domains, others prioritize a broad understanding of the tech industry.
Technical Program Manager positions become open to you after a 4-year bachelor’s degree. Most times you initially work as a Product Manager, Software or Hardware Engineer, Engineering Manager, Program Manager, and Business Analyst. Then you transition to the technical program manager role.
Following entry level, you can advance to several Technical Program Manager career path milestones as shown above. It can take 2 years for an entry-level Technical Program Manager to progress to the senior technical program manager position. To advance to further roles, it takes approximately 5-8 years of experience and continuing education. Prestigious credentials such as PgMP certification could open more opportunities for you. Not all organizations require TPM candidates to hold an MBA. However, an MBA or a Master of Science in information technology are common post-graduate degrees that TPMs possess.
Technical Program Manager Salary In India
Based on Glassdoor data, the average annual salary for a technical program manager is $1,65,341 per year. Nevertheless, salary levels can fluctuate depending on factors such as the employing company, geographic location, educational background, and level of experience. For instance, established technology firms may offer higher compensation compared to startups focusing on product development. Also if you have PgMP Certification it will help you grow in your career.
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In essence, Technical Program Managers (TPMs) must possess a combination of technical competence, project management abilities, and business acumen. While educational qualifications vary, TPMs usually have technical degrees and can benefit from credentials like an MBA, PgMP, or PMP Certification. The position provides an opportunity for growth and progress in challenging technological areas, with a greater emphasis on inclusion and various skill sets.