What is a Technical Product Manager (TPM)?

A TPM is a product manager that works in technology at the DVLA. A product manager takes responsibility for the product strategy they are responsible for, collaborating with other experts (such as architects, service designers/owners, software developers, BA’s, UX/UI) to define the vision and mission for the product. This means looking at what problems is the product trying to solve and how can changes and new features add value for the end users and business?

They are the person who understands the user need and wider business strategy that their product will meet and is able to articulate how the product will do this. It can also mean making decisions on what needs to be prioritised next, based on value or need. This includes balancing adding new features with technical upgrades or fixing existing problems. A good TPM can make those trades and establish what enough features look like to deliver value without overdeveloping a product and creating waste. ​​​​​​​

Once a TPM has agreed the product vision and priority order, they are responsible for working with the development teams (squads) in an Agile framework to deliver these changes. Their role here is to help the team turn the vision into a reality, making informed decisions and removing blockers to allow the squad to focus on delivery.

Is it a technical role?

This role does not require someone to be able to be technical in terms of being able to code, but they should be experienced with working with software development teams and understand the software development lifecycle. ​​​​​​​

What benefit do TPMs bring to digital delivery?

Having TPMs or Product Owners involved who are experienced in digital delivery has huge advantages, such as:

  • Improved communication (and trust) from your development team and business stakeholders
  • Focus on value and an alignment to what is being delivered to the organisation’s strategy
  • Clear vision and purpose for why we are developing a new feature, helping engage and motivate the teams
  • Ability to understand tech trends, see how they impact the product roadmap, and how they can drive innovation.
  • User and business focus to ensure everything delivers benefit to the end user and meets a need
  • Ability to understand technical challenges and make educated trade-offs with your team.
  • Ability to understand the different technical solutions and consider this in balance with business needs, equally understanding when to invest in technology which may have no immediate user benefit (upgrades and updates, or refactoring)

What soft skills should a TPM have?

  • Communication Skills – Communication skills are used to create and articulate ideas, analyse situations, build consensus with others on the engineering team and lead challenging conversations. This involves speaking, writing, and listening in various contexts.
  • Story Telling – TPMs need to be able to give a compelling pitch of their product, what value it adds, how it’s addressing customer needs. Being able to story tell will help engage stakeholders and users and get real buy in to the product and development roadmap.
  • Prioritisation Skills – TPMs need to prioritise work depending on the value it will add and urgency to implement. They need to be able to problem-solve, identify opportunities, consider how they will do it and then implement. They must also have a high tolerance for ambiguity in order to develop plans when not all details are known.
  • Teamwork – TPMs must be able to work well as a team and know when it is appropriate to direct the team. They will also need to balance multiple priorities, so the ability to delegate tasks, and be an effective communicator who can listen closely enough for others on the team to make changes where necessary.
  • Emotional Intelligence – The ability to understand, use and manage your own emotions in a positive way. This includes being able to be empathetic to other and situations, understand others values and feelings to help overcome situations  and defuse conflict
  • Decision-Making – A TPM needs to be both comfortable and able to make sound decisions, often in a time constrained situations with little information available. This will include decisions around scope, addressing bugs and potentially delaying a release if they don’t believe it is ready.
  • Resilience – Resilience and both the ability and desire to work in the complex and often every changing environment. Things can change rapidly in the product manager world and the ability to quickly digest information, make sound decisions and pivot is a big part of the day job. It is a very varied role and the ability to bounce back, take problems in your stride, finding solutions and moving forward is a critical part of the role.

DDat Skills Snapshot

The table below shows the skills required at each level:

SkillTechnical Product ManagerSenior
Technical Product
Manager
Lead Product
Manager
Head of Product
Management
1Agile WorkingPractitionerExpertExpertExpert
2DDaT PerspectiveWorkingPractitionerExpertExpert
3Experience of Working within ConstraintsWorkingPractitionerExpertExpert
4Financial OwnershipPractitionerPractitionerPractitionerPractitioner
5Lifecycle PerspectiveWorkingExpertPractitionerExpert
6Operational ManagementPractitionerExpertExpertExpert
7Problem OwnershipPractitionerExpertExpertExpert
8Product OwnershipPractitionerExpertExpertExpert
9Strategic FocusPractitionerPractitionerExpertExpert
10User FocusPractitionerExpertExpertExpert