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The Importance of a Strong PM + Engineering Relationship

In custom software development, a close relationship between Product Management (PM) and Engineering is critical, as it supports alignment on priorities and promises, and – perhaps most importantly – the delivery of amazing solutions that fuel client success.  

From ensuring everyone is on the same page relative to project vision and strategy to tasks like writing tickets and communicating about challenges or changes, it truly takes a village. In a recent discussion with Revelry Senior Product Manager and Coach Amanda Phu and Software Engineer and Coach Ellen Carriere, they explained.

How does Product Management rely on Engineering on a project?

Amanda: I rely on Engineering for support on the more technical aspects of a project, especially when we’re working with a technology with which I’m unfamiliar. For example, in my current project, we’re integrating Okta for security. There’s several ways we can authenticate Okta – OIDC, SAML, SWA, etc. – but as a PM, I don’t completely understand the differences between them, or which is better. I lean on our engineers to provide that context. Once I have context and understanding, I can read through the documentation and help them implement the chosen solution. 

I also rely on Engineering to help gauge the complexities of a given problem / solution. It can be difficult to estimate against a timeframe when it comes to software development; since the engineers are the ones doing the building, their input is critical.

In addition, I rely on Engineering to learn and grow for my own benefit, and for the benefit of my future clients. If Engineering is debugging an issue and looking somewhere I have access to, I like to follow along. This way, in the future, I may be able to assist. 

As an engineer, how do you rely on your PM on a project?

Ellen: I rely on Product Management to advocate for the Engineering team, and to ensure everyone is working toward the same goal. If ever there is a question regarding which direction we should be going in, we know our PM has a clear understanding of the Product Owner’s (client’s) vision and is going to drive the product towards that. 

Also, sometimes there are technical decisions or roadblocks that require the input of a PO, but that are hard to put into layman’s terms. At Revelry, our PMs do a great job of working with Engineering to break down complicated technical problems into terms our clients will understand. 

When do you know when to bring Engineering/PM into the fold?

Ellen: I typically bring the PM into a discussion when there’s a decision that needs to be made on the direction of a product and how it’s built out. I’ll also initiate discussions with the PM when I need clarity about the highest priority work, so that Engineering is focusing on the most important features / bugs. PMs are also incredibly important when having to relay technical decisions or blockers that the PO needs to be aware of. 

Amanda: I bring Engineering into a discussion when technical decisions need to be made, or to talk through different ways to solve a problem. Once we understand the range of solutions available, we can weigh them against other factors, like the delivery timeline. I also bring Engineering into meetings with POs when I think it will be difficult for the person to understand why we can’t – or shouldn’t – implement things in a certain way.

What difficulties arise when there isn’t a strong relationship between the engineers and the PM on a project?

Ellen: If there isn’t a strong relationship between the PM and engineers, priorities can become misaligned and result in slower development times and a less effective product. Consistent communication between Engineering and the PM is critical on a project; it ensures the team is working together to build and deliver one cohesive product.  

Amanda: For a PM, or anyone who doesn’t have a strong understanding of the codebase, it can be difficult to understand the architecture of a product if it’s not communicated in layman’s terms. Clear, consistent communication between Engineering and PM is a must – as is the ongoing transfer of information. At Revelry, there aren’t “dumb questions” and we work “in the open,” so it’s easy to speak up and know what’s what. It all supports our ability to deliver strong and deliver as promised. 

To learn more about Revelry’s multidisciplinary approach to custom software development, connect with our team. Let’s build something amazing together!

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