Debunking the Top Myths in Technical Product Management

As a Product Manager in the software industry, you’re likely all too familiar with the unique challenges of managing technical products and working with engineering teams. But despite how often you collaborate with developers and architects to deliver solutions, some persistent product management myths and misconceptions continue to create roadblocks.

These myths impact your ability to build the right product, work efficiently, and communicate effectively. And when a VP or C-suite executive holds one of these common misbeliefs, it can seriously hinder your team’s progress and value delivery.

In this post, we’ll dig into three of the most stubborn myths technical product managers face, the realities you need to know, and how debunking these myths can help you be a better PM.

Myth #1: Non-functional requirements aren’t a priority

If you’ve spent any time in a scrum meeting, you’ve probably heard developers talk about “non-functional requirements” or NFRs. They use this term to refer to aspects of the product like:

  • Usability
  • Scalability
  • Performance
  • Security

These so-called NFRs describe how the product should behave and the quality standards it must meet. But because they don’t seem to map directly to capabilities or features, many engineers view them as lower priority.

Here’s the reality: the “non-functional” label is nonsense. There’s nothing more functional and requirement-like than defining how usable, fast, and secure your product needs to be.

Take performance as an example. If your product takes ten seconds to load a simple search result, that’s clearly not performing to an acceptable level. What good is the front-end UI if the back-end can’t deliver a timely experience?

So, as a PM, don’t accept the “non-functional” misnomer.

Focusing on key user journeys and setting measurable outcomes for these abilities is just as important as delivering specific features. Make sure you incorporate these vital product aspects into planning and prioritization just like any other requirement.

Myth #2: PMs don’t need to understand the technology

Another common and dangerous product management myth is that PMs can manage products successfully without digging into the technical details. As long as you capture requirements, prioritize the roadmap, and interface with customers, you’re doing your core job. Right?

microsoft teams

Wrong. Here’s why this hands-off approach is a myth:

First, you need awareness of how the technology impacts the customer experience. If the architecture is slow and clunky behind-the-scenes, users will encounter lag and friction points that sour their perception of your product. You have to care about that entire iceberg, not just the tip.

Second, you’ll struggle to make informed trade-off decisions during planning if you don’t understand technical constraints and options. Prioritizing technical debt cleanup may not seem valuable through a non-technical lens, but your developers will know it enables future velocity.

Finally, you can’t effectively collaborate with engineers without some fluency in the technology. You need enough technical knowledge to have intelligent conversations, ask good questions, and call BS if someone tries dazzling you with inscrutable jargon.

So, while you don’t have to be a former developer, make sure you invest time to learn the tech stack, architecture, and infrastructure for the products you manage. Doing so helps you make better product decisions and partner with engineering more strategically.

Myth #3: Leadership Doesn’t Care About the Technical Details

The third product management myth relates to communication. Many PMs assume that engineering details are irrelevant to executives focused on business strategy and revenue.

Your job is to translate between these two worlds, but you may hesitate to bring up technical considerations at the leadership table. However, dismissing technical insights as too tactical can backfire:

Technology decisions have business implications that leadership needs to weigh in on. Migrating to microservices could support scale and velocity but requires upfront investment. Great PMs proactively surface these trade-offs.

The trick is to frame technical work so it connects clearly to business value. Help executives understand how improving performance and stability—while less glamorous than new features—translates to revenue by boosting customer satisfaction and lowering support costs.

In other words, get comfortable translating tech speak into business impact and cost/benefit trade-offs. Doing so ensures you get buy-in for important technical investments.

Get ahead by busting these myths

As a PM, you may feel like you’re translating between two different languages and cultures on a daily basis. But embracing the realities behind these common myths puts you in a position to bridge that gap effectively.

Remember that:

  • Managing non-functional abilities is just as important as features
  • You need to understand the technology, not just the requirements
  • Leadership cares about tech decisions that influence business success

Debunking myths helps you make better product decisions, collaborate with engineers, and secure stakeholder support. The result is a product that delights customers by delivering stellar experiences throughout.

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Anne Steiner, Contributor
Anne Steiner, Contributor