5 Practical Tips for Technical Product Managers

In the world of technical product management, you need to master a diverse set of capabilities. From understanding code to pitching executives, effective PMs have to toggle between technical details and high-level strategy daily.

But aside from core skills like communication and prioritization, what practical tips help PMs deliver technical products in the real world?

In this post, we’ll cover five tactics for navigating common technical PM challenges including:

  • Selling refactoring work
  • Managing engineers without coding expertise
  • Speeding up development velocity
  • Staying in touch with what matters to the customer

Master these practical tricks of the trade to step up your technical product management game.

Tip #1: Sell refactoring by highlighting value

Here’s a familiar scenario: your engineers want to pause feature development for a few months to pay down technical debt. This refactoring work will improve stability and enable long-term velocity. But your executives want to see exciting new capabilities first and foremost.

How do you sell mandatory refactoring in this situation?

First, avoid leading with tech jargon like “technical debt” and “refactoring” in the boardroom. Those terms are meaningless to non-technical leaders. Instead, quantify the business value impact in their language:

  • “By rebuilding our messy legacy code now, we can accelerate releases by 15% next quarter.”
  • “This infrastructure upgrade will reduce service outages by 30%, improving customer retention.”

Second, frame large refactoring projects as enablers of critical business outcomes:

  • “Re-architecting our monolith platform is required to launch our mobile apps with the needed performance.”
  • “Migrating to microservices is essential for entering the Asian market and achieving our growth goals.”

In other words, paint a clear line between refactoring and tangible business results. Technical debt may not be sexy, but investing now enables outcomes they want tomorrow, which is.

Tip #2: Call out B.S. (without being a developer)

Even without a development background, you’ll need to challenge engineering assumptions and call out B.S. occasionally. So how do you effectively push back on technical experts?

First, get smart on the basics of the codebase and architecture. Learn enough to understand the fundamentals and ask intelligent questions. Lean on architects willing to teach.

Next, find your “translator”—an engineer willing to advise you honestly when things sound fishy. Develop trust with them to validate gut feelings that something is off.

Finally, focus on collaboration, not confrontation. Say, “I want to make sure I understand the risks here fully so I can support you.” Rather than accusing them directly, use ignorance to extract the truth politely.

You don’t need to be a coder to push back on engineers. Build foundational knowledge, find internal allies, and lead with curiosity.

Tip #3: Learn enough tech details to manage well

We’ve established you don’t need to be a coder. But how much time should PMs spend digging into the technical details?

As a rule of thumb, strive to understand:

  • The overall architecture and infrastructure
  • How major components and services interact
  • Key quality attributes like scalability, security, and performance

Avoid getting dragged into minor implementation details or trying to micromanage. But major architectural decisions, technical trade-offs, and infrastructure choices should be on your radar.

Knowing the high-level landscape helps you make better product decisions and have meaningful technical discussions. Shooting for the “30,000-foot view” is a good goal.

Tip #3: Fix velocity by improving discovery

Slow project velocity plagues many technical teams. But often, the root cause is poor discovery upfront, not dev team capacity.

Flawed discovery leads to inflated stories that are confusing to estimate and impossible to complete. If your team struggles to meet its sprint commitments, ask yourself:

  • Are large requirements being decomposed into small, testable stories?
  • Do developers understand the user value behind each item?
  • Is the backlog ordered to deliver value incrementally?

Improving your discovery practices, like story mapping and MVP definition, is the fastest way to speed up development. Right-sized, value-centric stories enable accurate estimation and rapid iteration.

Tip #5: Build a feedback loop with customers

This last tip is more mindset than actionable tactic. But savvy PMs continually connect customers back to technical decisions.

Building a tight feedback loop helps in two ways:

  1. Informs architectural choices. If your customers care most about mobile performance, that data point guides infrastructure decisions.
  2. Sells technical improvements internally. If you hear customers complaining about speed, you can sell an optimization sprint.

Constantly gathering feedback is key. Share insights from support tickets, user interviews, and reviews to spotlight technical areas that need attention.

Help engineers deliver value

Technical product management comes with its own unique challenges. But equipping yourself with practical tips and tricks enables you to streamline processes, sell critical work, and collaborate effectively.

Try out these five techniques next time you run into roadblocks on your technical PM journey:

  • Highlight business value to sell refactoring
  • Learn enough tech to call out B.S.
  • Fix underlying discovery before velocity
  • Understand the 30,000-foot view of the architectural landscape
  • Use customer feedback to guide technical decisions

Mastering these practical skills helps you empower engineers to build products that customers love.

Want expert help improving your product management skills?

Talk to a Product Coach
Anne Steiner
Anne Steiner