Team, relationship, communication, ditial product

How can a product manager build relationship with software development team?

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Product manager’s role is a very exciting one, where on one hand they have to manage the customers, business stakeholders and senior management team on one hand, while on the other hand, they have to be adept at handling the delivery teams for their product. Hence, it’s a combination of both art & science in digital product management. It’s a very intellectually driven environment and hence, I would propose to “CARE” in order to build a successful relationship with the software engineers & developers in your team.

What does ‘CARE’ stand for?

Team, software development, communication, digital product

COMMUNICATE – Its sometimes so commonly said, that the actual practice is missed at crucial. times. As a product manager, you must communicate with your product team (that includes your software development team), irrespective they are co-located or not. Communicating includes sharing the strategy, plans, decisions, actions, tasks, and feedback (good & bad) that you get to know first-hand from other business stakeholders, senior management team, customers etc. Your product team is fully engrossed in sprint work, and might not be aware of these elements that shape the product. They would appreciate your sharing & transparency. They will feel involved.

APTITUDE – If you can speak Spanish to a Spanish person or Russian to a person from Russia, there is nothing sweater to their ears. Similarly, if you could speak the technical language, or at least understand it, then you build that bridge with the development teams. This might require extra effort for you to understand the concepts and details of technical implementation including Continuous integration / Continuous deployment, Object oriented programming, Tools like Github and other technical building blocks of the software etc. I can vouch for this fact that if you take 1 step in that direction, I am sure your development team would see you putting the effort and they would take 3 steps. Once you speak the same language, the communication gets easy.

RAPPORT – This is quite an after effect of the above two items. If you able to communicate with the software development team about the business decisions & technical implementation, you have already started to build the rapport with them. Another practical way of build rapport would be to involve them in product related discussions, in product prioritisation workshops, in defining product delivery roadmap, talking about technical trade-offs and risks. This will pay you dividends in the long run when you will get a smoothly operating product team that understands all aspects of the product – both business & technology.

EMPATHY – Easier said than done. You will have to dig deeper and feel about this before implementing. You have to really mean this pat. You cannot fake it. You have to truly understand the nature of software development, the issues & complexities and the reason behind certain estimates. You have to be very careful in your language, thoughts & actions to truly master this part. You might have to sit at the desk of a software developer to actually see what’s going on.

The most common mistake I see with product managers when they start using the term ‘THEY’ for their own development team members. This shows the ‘empathy’ is still missing. You believe they are a separate entity whose job is to just develop the stuff you have defined as a product manager. This won’t help you build a super-smooth & effective conveyor belt to roll out fantastic products & services for your customers. You need to really embrace ‘CARE’ to achieve the best for your team.

If you have any question on digital product management – be it related to career, expertise, skills, projects, or ‘How to’ stuff, drop me a line at:

I would be happy to help.


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