Discover more from BR: Technical Program Manager’s Field Manual
What is Planning Really / Technical Program Operations / Importance of Tools From Other Roles / Finally, A TPM Conference
Welcome to 📮Monday TPM Field Dispatch 013 - Short-form thoughts on tech program management + curated content for further exploration, delivered every Monday to your inbox to kickstart your week.
1️⃣ What is planning really?
A big part of our role as Technical Program Managers is planning. But, I am sure you have heard from your engineering, product, and leader counterparts retort with the following words:
“We do too much planning. We just need to do more coding.”
I understand the sentiment. I too want to spend time doing something besides planning. We all want to ship products. Lately however, I have been thinking deeply about the essence of what is planning?
If I asked someone what does it mean to plan a project or program, they would say things like spreadsheets, scoping, Gantt charts, tasks, Jira, Linear, requirements.
What if our frustration with planning is to only see it through this myopic lens? Maybe planning isn’t about charts, epics and breakdowns. Broaden your lens and look at everything we do. Planning starts the moment we decide to do something. Deciding what to do with the resources we have, the OKRs, the strategic vision, the tactical roadmap, that product A/B experimentation, that new SaaS feature. That is all planning.
These are all necessary costs but we rarely see them as part of planning. Perhaps that is the frustration when we spend too much time in the initial part of the planning phase.
2️⃣ Technical Program Operations
Where do Technical Program Managers fit in a modern agile scrum kanban SAFe world?
The logical place is within the engineering organization. TPMs focus on both the "how" and "when" of a task, necessitating collaboration with engineering.
Ramp’s project management crew sits as part of the Product Operations team. For those that don’t know what Product Operations is “an operational function that optimizes the intersection of product, engineering, and customer success. It supports the R&D team and their go-to-market counterparts to improve alignment, communications, and processes around the product.”
That is something novel or something always been. I had never considered that option where the TPM team sits as part of the product ops organization.
Where does your TPM or TPM PMO sit with your organization?
Is your TPM team's location in the organizational chart the most effective place?
3️⃣ Importance of Tools From Other Roles
This is based on a reader question about leveraging tools from other job functions like Product Management.
In my previous writing I have maintained that TPMs must understand product management and product managers must understand Technical Program Management. Why?
To ensure an effective cohesive collaboration, you must understand what each of these roles do. You don’t have to be experts in them but appreciate the challenges faced by them. Additionally, in early stage startups PMs play TPM roles. In my humble opinion, TPMs make for better PMs than any other role.
Another reason TPM’s must understand Product Management is because it helps them be better at their own function. It gives them an extra set of tools to leverage to be effective at their jobs. Let me share an example:
When we were building up and scaling Apple’s two factor authentication system back in 2014, we wanted to use an authentication factor that Apple didn’t have control over nor could acquire through engineering functions without compromising the privacy and security systems severely - the device passcode and your Mac password was that special factor.
However, how do you communicate the nuance of the two and ensure no one accidentally locks themselves out especially in an era where people are so used to TouchID and FaceID to login to their devices.
One question we consistently asked ourselves, started jokingly but became a guiding principle, to ensure our designs were consistent, clear and easy to comprehend: would my parents understand this screen they are seeing?
That right there is a persona.
4️⃣ My First Conference Presentation + Finally A Conference For TPMs
Finally, WE Technical Program Managers have our own conference. 🎊 🎉 ❤️
It will be a mix of virtual and in-person at the venerable Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA taking place on October 6th.
Huge kudos and extreme respect, admiration, and well wishes to the organizers behind this momentous event. I have always felt that the TPM community deserved and needed something like this.
🌝 I will be doing a talk at the conference titled “TPMs Are World Builders”.
How was this week’s newsletter?
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