5 things product managers should know about how to work with developers

5 things product managers should know about how to work with developers

Being a product manager is not about supervising others as they work towards a pre-set goal; it means to own the product. The best way to ensure that the product creation and operation is within its vision is for the product manager to blend in with the people who actually drive the vision. Developers know best how to create code but they will not do this well if the product manager does not sell the vision and strategy of a project to them.

This unfortunately is a major component of being a product manager that many professionals overlook. Perhaps, it is best for product manager to keep their role description fresh in their minds by doing the following;

Break down the planning phase into fine details

Your developers are working under pressure to create something that will work in the projects unique environment in which it exists. While they have the knowledge and skills to put together lines of code, they cannot read your mind. Give them as much flesh in your task outlines as possible – it will avoid frustrations from both ends.

It does not matter whether your team works remotely or at a definite location; equip them with all the information they need to work well. As much as possible, make the team understand the tiny details of the project; why you picked red for instance instead of another color

After the team has been aligned to the bigger picture, they are ready to start but not before they get an outline or order in which tasks need to be executed. Pointing out to tasks in order of priority helps developers to manage their time and build an application from the bottom going up.

Allow your developers time to work on a single item at a time

Your developers have a thorough plan of what you expect from them but many product managers forget that they are just as human as them. They need time to work on the various items on your delivery list. Unless you have given clear instructions for delivery of multiple tasks and allowed enough time for it, it is unfair to have an ‘urgent’ tag to everything.

Even for items which you have marked as priority, the developers will still need to work on a single item at a time. If there is a specific order in which you prefer this done, communicate with your team – some tasks are built on others so listen to what their ideas are.

In case the priorities of the project change, avoid making updates on the system without formal communication. From the start, it will be of great help to set up instance communication tools that allow you to instantly relay messages to your team.

While this system will reduce conflict within the team, a series of interruptions will kill your team’s morale. The same will happen if you constantly change priorities and overload your developers with work.

Exercise empathy in communication

Your first consideration as far as communication is concerned is to plan with your delivery team the best times to touch base. Even if you are using instant messaging, it is thoughtful to provide a private number or alternative channel of communication in case the main one does not work. Additionally, your team needs to feel that they can approach you; personalize status messages to reflect your availability.

Sometimes, the instructions you want to pass across the team apply to just one individual – there is really no need to summon the entire team when you can just call a side chat with the respective team member. A product manager should be able to discern matters that concern the entire team and those that do not.

Developers need to know how the project is going

The best way to handle this is to create an avenue for continuous feedback. According to a research done by Gallup, employees perform better at their duties when they have regular meetings with their team leaders and managers. In the case of cross-functional partnerships, the same should apply.

The nature of developer work is that different individuals could would on different parts of a code at the same time. If possible such teams need to meet regularly or better the, the product manager should give updates on what has been achieved in stages.

While there is pressure in making money, developers are prone to frustration as a result of their work. It is during such times when courtesy should be exercised. Encouraging your developers to video call instead of text messaging or chatting helps to deal with bottled up emotions.

Invest in the project to ensure its conclusion

Nothing kills the motivation of a team of developers than a project that gets stuck halfway because of lack of resources. A responsible product manager will draw up a budget of the requirements of the projects months in advance.

Part of this budget should include cost of updating the software. This is an area that most product managers often forget but building a program and leaving it at that will just not do in the current technological era.

What happens when a library that was used in your code gets updated, or a set of code is patched? Even for software where updates are avoided, the need eventually catches when it calls for add-ons which are inevitable.

Most people jump on product development based on what they know from user stories and features. The danger in this is that when such code requires an upgrade, the process is going to be tedious and time consuming. Seek to first establish if the product you are heading is legacy or not. A legacy system requires that code is set up first followed by stories.


As a product manager, your greatest tool is your ability to communicate across all levels. Talking to your team members keeps them aligned to the vision while communication with upper management keeps resources flowing. The communication style of the product manager dictates the mood of the entire project; after all, they are the captain.

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