What is the difference between Engineering Manager, Product Manager, Program Manager and Technical architect?

What is the difference between Engineering Manager, Product Manager, Program Manager and Technical architect?

In a small firm with one/two products, these titles don’t matter.

However, in a mid-size or larger firm with multiple products or a product that scales in terms of its reach and operations, the boundary lines are often something like this

Product Manager

A Product Manager learns the needs of the market, creates the product strategy, negotiates investment and timeline with management, then translates this strategy into a tactical plan that the Program Manager implements.

A product manager will do different things at different places, but ideally, they should only be responsible for the functionality of the product. In most teams, the product manager is really on the hook for the growth of the product. Do people like using what you’re shipping, and is it growing (assuming that’s your objective). Product managers are accountable for the functional aspects of the product (and somewhat the technical aspects {indirectly} as the end-to-end accountable for the product). Product management teams tend to be small and flat.

  • Owns product road-map
  • Why of the product for the engineering team to build
  • When certain features will be delivered for the product

Engineering Manager

An engineering manager, like the PM, might have different responsibilities, but will often be responsible for the management of the engineering team, ensuring they are building things in the right way. Technical escalation, maybe some of the other engineers need help, guidance, etc. Engineering managers are accountable for the implementation of the product and often for people management of engineering personnel. 

  • Owns the engineering team members that work on the product
  • How to use the technologies that the technical architect has identified to build the product.

Technical Architect

A technical architect would be a delivery role within the team, ideally responsible for the technical strategy of how the rest of the engineering team would build the product. Think of it as a real architect. They kind of set the technical plan, but the engineers do all the actual construction work. Architects are responsible for guiding and constraining engineering, making sure their work and tools evolve appropriately to provide technical innovation to the product development effort and to meet future needs. 

  • Owns the technical direction
  • What technologies to use to deliver the product

Program Manager

In this role, Program Managers are tasked with overseeing individual projects while assessing the program’s strategy and how it will affect the business. It is a career that continues to be in-demand with businesses in every industry, as Program Managers design the blueprint for programs, implement the projects that make up the program, and make sure all the various pieces are in place to make the program and the business a success.

Program Managers take the helm in designing, planning, and overseeing the successful completion of a program and the various projects that define the program in their organization. They layout the program’s strategy, communicate its objectives and analyze how it will impact the company. Program Managers ensure long-term organizational objectives are met and that strategic benefits and business growth are achieved at the completion of a program.

  • Leading and managing large, complex enterprise-level projects
  • Define, shape, and drive product and technology roadmap, create clarity to guide plans, and drive success.
  • Meet business objectives by successfully designing, implementing, and guiding programs to completion.
  • Overseeing project managers and their project teams.
  • Creating fast and effective solutions when issues arise.
  • Documenting all aspects of work and presenting progress to leadership and stakeholders.
  • Proven ability to manage relationships at all org levels.

But truth be told, you’ll find so many variations of what people do, it’s hard to know for sure.

Building the right balance between the functional and technical perspectives is crucial for long-term product success.

Would you like to know more?

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