In my experience, a product manager's relationship with her dev team(s) can go one of two ways:
- They will ignore you.
- They will rely on you.
My advice to novice Ps is to shoot for the latter.
I was out with some dev friends last week who were raving about their product manager. So I asked what made this PM so special. And now, here I am to share this info with you.
Top 5 things engineers want from their product manager:
- Be organized.
Have documentation updated and centralized at all times (in Confluence if your org uses Jira). This alone will make you indispensable to your team. If a dev asks for something on the fly, be able to get an answer quickly. Know what tickets are in the sprints (I typically have Jira ticket numbers memorized, mainly because I refer to them so often.) Engineers appreciate this.
- Take control of your meetings, and take fastidious notes.
If you schedule a meeting with your dev team, own it. Have an agenda, open the meeting strongly, and take notes. For God's sake, please take notes. This is your job. If your notes suck, read my article on 5 steps to taking awesome notes. I promise to make it easy for you.
- Be a stickler for sprint scope creep.
Here's where business and engineering often butt heads. Business wants to sneak something into this week's release last minute; this drives engineering BONKERS. There may be times where pressure is great and a VP demands sneak something in, but do not make it a habit. Your dev team(s) will loathe you.
- Take scrum ceremonies seriously, and include your dev team.
Sprint planning is not for the product manager to tell your dev team what's going in the sprint. It's to decide, collectively, what goes in the sprint. (BTW the engineers are the ones who build your stuff!) Also, don't cancel sprint demo last minute. This sends a message that something else is more important. Respect your engineers' time. It's valuable.
- Say 'NO' decisively and move on.
There are many occasions when a product manager must say no. An engineer wants to do a refactor, but you have other higher-priority tech debt. Your boss wants to sneak a user story in this week's release last minute (see #3!). Be professional, but say no, and say it firmly. Trying to please everyone and not following through will not gain you friends.
As a product manager, you have to balance what business wants from you and what engineering wants from you. This is a fine balance.
Want to learn more? Listen to Episode 3 of the Product Popcorn Podcast, where I discuss this with two engineers.