GUIDE 2022

What Does a Technical Program Manager Do?

A technical program manager is a professional who develops, leads, and executes technical programs that help a company achieve its respective business objectives.

According to Statista, global spending on Enterprise Software stands at an impressive $775B as of 2022, a significant increase from the $675B registered in 2021. 

Business leaders understand the benefits of investing in software programs to maximize growth, tap into new markets, and improve their long-term profitability. 

Companies partner with technical program managers to take charge of the execution of those software development programs and ensure that they become success stories that drive profit and overall business growth.

In this article, we discuss the responsibilities that technical program managers must carry out in order to meet their employers’ expectations and succeed at their job.

Technical Program Manager Role

A technical program manager is a senior or mid-level professional within an organization’s hierarchy who oversees and develops programs that help further a company’s business goals and initiatives. Technical program managers are experienced multitaskers who take on large-scale initiatives that consist of several related projects. 

Each project within the program has its corresponding goals and milestones that the team or teams must accomplish in order to guarantee the successful implementation of the program. Technical program managers differ from technical project managers in that the latter work on a single project that targets achieving a single deliverable. On the other hand, the scope of a technical program manager is larger since they work on initiatives that contain multiple projects.

Their seniority, coupled with the multifaceted nature of their roles, demands appropriate monetary compensation, with Glassdoor estimating a US-Based TPM’s average earnings as $129,447/year. 

Companies are hiring technical program managers now more than ever because more and more organizations leverage technology to expand their services and product line as well as to increase the likelihood of being industry leaders in their respective niches.

In their capacity as senior-level professionals within a company’s hierarchy, TPMs assume leadership roles that manage one or more technical teams charged with fleshing out the various projects stipulated within a program. 

Types of Technical Program Managers

There are two types of technical program managers. While their job titles are similar, each one differs based on their seniority and individual responsibilities within their respective companies. 

  1. On one hand, there is the standard technical program manager who fulfills the role that a company expects of them. 
  2. On the other hand, there are senior technical program managers. While they are similar to the standard TPM, senior technical program managers differ in that they manage larger programs than technical program managers. 

Large multinational companies employ senior technical program managers to oversee numerous programs at once. In doing so, senior TPMs oversee, guide, and mentor multiple TPMs within an organization, in turn, being responsible for their success.

Technical Program Manager Responsibilities

A technical program manager has three overarching responsibilities, each one with its corresponding tasks. 

In no particular order, these responsibilities are as follows: 

  1. Strategic Planner
  2. Technical Program Director
  3. Organization Leader

Let’s take a closer look at each of these responsibilities.

Strategic Planner

Before a technical program manager gets the gears in motion and executes the various projects within their program; they must exercise proper strategic planning. Framing their course of action around a cohesive, well-planned strategy helps to ensure homogeneity between the result of the program post-execution and its original conceptualized purpose, avoid unforeseen obstacles and missteps during its development, and maximize the impact it has after its completion.

Here are some of the key tasks associated with being a strategic planner:

 

  • Understanding a business’ short-term and long-term overarching goals and initiatives
  • Aligning the course of action with business goals
  • Foreseeing possible risks and challenges that team members encounter during the project’s execution
  • Coming up with solutions to possible roadblocks
  • Ensuring that the program’s outcome meshes with its original concept

Technical Program Director

TPMs are responsible for managing their respective programs and ensuring that they are successful. Therefore, a technical program manager assumes a directorship role within their company, being the chief person in charge of seeing the program through from start to finish.

Some of the key tasks involved with being the director of their technical program include:

  • Developing a roadmap for program completion
  • Liaising with team members to come up with ambitious-yet-attainable deadlines for project deliveries within the program
  • Ensuring that the program teams have the proper training and resources needed to meet their respective objectives
  • Overseeing the team’s progress and helping them to overcome roadblocks that stunt their ability to meet a given objective
  • Communicating program progress during its lifecycle to the relevant stakeholders

Organizational Leader

In their capacity as team managers, TPMs assume leadership roles within the organizations they work. 

Here is a breakdown of some of the tasks TPMs carry out as organizational leaders: 

  • Providing specific project requirements to team members that allow them to succeed at their job
  • Acting as mentors and coaches that motivate teams to maximize their productivity and focus on meeting their respective deadlines
  • Identifying team members that require additional support during the program’s execution and working with them to ensure they give the best of themselves
  • Maintaining team morale and helping them cross the finish line on time

Technical Program Manager Qualifications

Being a managerial multifaceted role, technical program managers require a unique skill set and background to succeed at their job. 

Here is a breakdown of those requirements:

Bachelor’s degree in a technical or business-related field (Computer Science, Software Engineering, Business Management, Entrepreneurship)

  • Bachelor’s degree in a technical or business-related field (Computer Science, Software Engineering, Business Management, Entrepreneurship)
  • Three to five years of experience working in software development, product management, or a related field
  • Proven experience managing and delivering successful software products for companies
  • Strong understanding of the technical aspects of software development 
  • Leadership skills
  • Strategic skills
  • Communication skills

Best Tips for New Technical Program Managers

Even if you have experience in a project management role, making the transition to technical program management is not an easy feat. On one hand, you now have to assume the responsibility of bringing several pending projects across the finish line. On the other hand, you now assume an even more critical leadership role in a company where team members look to you for guidance, support, and motivation. 

Use the following tips to get ahead as a new technical program manager and maximize the impact you have at your company. 

Make Communicating a Priority

During your time as a technical program manager, your work environment is in constant change. Every week, your team members make progress with their assigned tasks and work their way toward achieving their respective milestones. 

As a team leader who bridges the gap between the technical team and the rest of the organization, leaving key stakeholders in the dark on the progress of the program is not an option. 

Take it upon yourself to keep the rest of the company abreast with status updates on the team’s progress. Even if a team hasn’t achieved a major milestone, letting the rest of the management team know that they are on track to do so is all you need to keep all of the company’s major players in the loop.

Time is Critical

During your planning and conceptualizing phases, several ideas jump out at you. As someone who takes their job to heart, the natural thing to do is to spend time analyzing your options and coming up with what you believe to be the best solution to treat a given problem. 

While there is nothing wrong with this, time is of the essence. As a TPM, you have so many responsibilities and moving parts on your plate to attend to that coming up with a perfect solution isn’t always the best decision.

 

Be practical. Rely on data to make informed decisions that work. Don’t spend your time overanalyzing possible solutions if you have already found one that does the job. The less time you spend mulling over unnecessary things, the more time you have to spend on the aspects of your job that require a more delicate and thoughtful approach.

Be Conscious of Change Management

As a technical program manager, no doubt you have your own processes and ways of approaching development. Sometimes, team members within your organization are not familiar with your processes. This brings about conflict as team members tend to exhibit resistance to change, whether passive or active. 

Therefore, it is your job to ensure effective management of change processes. Identify instances of passive and active resistance displayed by your team members and work toward eliminating them without compromising the professional relationship that you have with the team or the team’s ability to perform at a high level. 

What’s Next?

Program management is becoming popular as a practice and skill set by both public and private sector companies worldwide. 

Program management allows for the efficient management of change and the ability of senior management to make wise choices. This ensures the timely and cost-effective completion of all associated projects.

Technical program managers are key players who convert the vision for their respective programs into success stories. 

As leaders who manage multiple teams, TPMs experience several challenges on the job. However, once you remain motivated, display solid team leadership skills, and provide the necessary support and resources to your team members, your job becomes more enjoyable and lucrative with each passing week.