Unleash Your Leadership

#20: Redefining Success: The Future of TPMs in Tech

August 01, 2023 Priyanka Shinde Season 1 Episode 20
Unleash Your Leadership
#20: Redefining Success: The Future of TPMs in Tech
Show Notes Transcript

In this ever-evolving world of technology, roles and responsibilities are subject to constant change. The Technical Program Manager (TPM) position has been a crucial part of product and software development for many years. However, more recently, there have been many questions about the role's relevance and future due to various factors, primary of which is the tech layoffs.
In this episode, I answer the question "Is the TPM role dead?" and look into factors leading to this point and what the future holds.
Join me as I share my views on the TPM role - value of the TPM role to organizations,  the impact of layoffs on the TPM function,  the current state of the TPM role and the evolution of the TPM role and expectations around it.

Learn more about TPM with these resources
TPM Insights
Cracking the TPM Interview Course

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hi, everyone. Welcome to the unleash, your leadership podcast. Thank you for joining me today. And  appreciate you taking the time. I know there has been a lot going on but hope your summer is going good. Today I want to chat with you about the technical program manager role? Our TPM in short. 

You may know, the technical program manager is a key role that is part of product and software development, And has been so for many years, More recently though, I have been getting a lot of questions this role's relevance and it's future. Many people are wondering. If this role is going to survive. 

What is the value that this role brings to its teams or organizations? 

Of course, many reasons for these questions. 

Of course, the main reason for this, these questions that are coming up is due to the recent tech layoffs. We have seen many companies big and small. Laying off a lot of people. And this has not been great for anybody, but particularly the technical program manager role or function has been affected. 

Somewhat disproportionately. 

 It is due to a number of reasons. However, before I jump into this. Episode. 

I wanted to touch upon .  

Is the technical program manager role dead before I answer that. let's talk about TPM or technical program manager. What is it? If you have never come across this. Of course. My website has a lot of insights around the role, the responsibilities and how to approach it 

in brief here though, the TPM role is a multifaceted role. That's responsible for overseeing planning, execution and deliverable. Delivery of complex technical programs within an organization. TPMS act as a bridge between engineering teams, product managers, other cross-functional stakeholders. Senior and senior leadership. 

Ensuring the alignment of goals, schedules, and resources. 

This role requires a lot of technical expertise, program management skills, leadership skills. And TPMs must possess a deep understanding of the technology that is being developed. And the challenges associated with it.  They're able to adapt to. Coordinating and managing multiple teams, managing risks and mitigating issues throughout the entire program development life cycle. 

Our product development lifecycle. 

 TPMs bring a lot of value to their engineering and product teams. And if you talk to some of those teams, you will get that answer. TPMs help achieve business outcomes, but really leveraging their deep domain expertise. and creating a holistic program strategy. And there are many benefits. 

To having a TPM, some of which are a very effective program execution like TPMS are really instrumental in driving efficiency. They can do so by. Streamlining processes. removing bottlenecks, optimizing resource allocation. They really help coordinate the time and effort between the different teams and facilitate collaboration. 

 This all contributes to successful program outcomes. They really help identify and manage risks. Like. Like. That can become. The help in identifying and managing risks. TPMs are really skilled at understanding what are the potential risks to a program, and then proactively implementing strategies. 

To minimize the impact of such risks on the program, timeline and quality. 

TPMs are great at cross-functional leadership, they play a pivotal role in connecting various teams, departments in an organization, or even across companies. They're able to lead these cross-functional initiatives, ensuring that everyone is aligned. With the programs objectives. Leading to a more cohesive and synergistic work environment. 

 Of course TPMs are great at communication. They do effective communication and they act as communication hubs, ensuring that the information is flowing. smoothly between all the different stakeholders, teams, and leadership. Their clear and concise communication helps to maintain transparency and keeps everyone informed about the program's progress as well as challenges. 

 Of course I can go on and on however, I want to come back to the point of the relevance of the TPM role in the current environment. 

As we talked about there. have been in multiple layoffs at the tech companies and the TPM role has been affected. 

 Now I want to mention that these layoffs have happened to a multiple reasons. Some companies have overhired in the pursuit of growth and expansion. 

 When the market was great and it was good. Everybody was hiring. For all the different initiatives that were coming together.  Now with the changing scenario as the market has contracted. These companies find themselves with either excess manpower.  So they have to lay off folks in order to optimize costs. 

We are, of course seeing market ships, the technological advancements are also making certain programs and products, either obsolete or not worth pursuing as strategic bets for the companies. And in order to stay  competetive. These companies have to restructure their workforce and. That does result in layoffs. 

Many companies are, may go through financial challenges or declining revenues, which again, prompts decisions around. Cost reductions. And staff reductions.  Finally. Companies are also trying to optimize and operate more efficiently. Efficiently efficiency seems to be the word of the year for sure.  Everybody wants to make sure that. 

People. Products budgets. Everything is optimized. This  results in getting a deeper look at the different functions, which again means that there can be layoffs, which is what we are seeing. 

Now you can see that none of these reasons are very specific to being a TPM. 

Some of the things around optimization and looking at certain functions.  Can lead to some roles and functions or role types being eliminated. 

But that has happened to other roles as well, outside of the TPM role. 

Here's what I say the TPMS and TPM role is still valuable. Despite all the challenges and the layoffs, the TPM world continues to hold immense value for organizations. For companies that have based hiring reasonably are really positioned strongly to move forward. And are even hiding a lot of TPMS. 

Many startups and midsize companies, or even tech, adjacent just an organizations. Are wanting to leverage the superpowers of a TPM. Because they know that TPMS can help navigate the complexity in this tech landscape. Like with all of these complex products and technologies, the expertise that the TPMS bring. 

Can we help manage all these multifaceted initiatives? TPMS can help streamline operations. Like they can bring structure with their program management skills, making sure resources, timelines, and all of this is happening. In line. With expectations. 

Their strategic leadership is also required to balance out. Tactical execution. That expecting TPMS to be strategic leaders so that we can align projects and programs across the company's broader goals. 

Communication and collaboration is important as ever in fact, maybe more because of all the complexity. TPMS Excel in fostering this collaboration. And maintaining open lines of communication between different groups.  Finally. Complexity always brings risks. TPMS ability to anticipate and mitigate risks is a prized quality. 

Their expertise in identifying potential. Roadblocks and implementing risk reduction. This is really invaluable to organizations. 

So, what does that mean? It means that. Of all the TPM roles that are either being eliminated or subject to. Layoffs. There is a need to really look at. What were the reasons behind it? Besides some of the things that I mentioned in terms of the macro economics. And what are really the priced skills of a TPM. 

It is important to understand that TPMS. Aren't just task masters or scrum masters are project status reporters. TPMS are really much more than that. and they are expected to be much more than that. In fact. For a lot of different engineering work. And to run just team level, scrum team work or sprints you don't really need TPMS. 

A lot of engineering or engineering folks like technical leads or engineering managers. Are able to project manage smaller projects that are within the team or maybe just limit it to two teams. Where the TPM really adds value is when there are more than three or so teams, or if it's really going across. 

TPMS really add value when programs are either complex and ambiguous. Or there's a whole lot of time pressure. Maybe there is multi-year planning required. Or the scope and the size of the stakeholder group is really large. Highly cross-functional. 

As you think about the TPM role 

And you're looking to find that next TPM job. Think about how you can adapt to this changing landscape. 

The tech industry is evolving, as you can see. And that means every function is evolving. Which means all aspiring an existing TPMS must adapt. To this changing expectations to remain relevant and thrive. 

some of the ways you can do that. Well, first embrace strategic  thinking. TPMs need to expand their focus beyond the tactical execution and develop a deep understanding all the overall organizational strategy. This will enable them to align programs with strategic goals and contribute to company's longterm success. 

So. When I talk about tactical execution, it is just either creating reports. Creating tasks. Taking notes. Those are all things that are a means to an end. And the strategic aspects are really the risk management. The stakeholder management. Dependency tracking. Identifying critical path and making sure that businesses outcomes are reached. 

Second TPMs really need to develop soft skills and continue to do so. See technical expertise is really essential. However, the soft skills are really important for effective communication. TPMS need to have. high Emotional intelligence. As well as strong leadership skills. That are wider because they're working with such large group of people and often with leaders. 

And the ability to be able to lead these folks is important to be effective. 

Also, if you think about it in the age of AI chatGPT, generative AI. There are a lot of these. low level work that can be handed off to AI tools. Project reports can be created. Meeting notes can be taken. 

Which means that it saves time for the, I mean, it actually frees up time for the TPM to do more high-value work.  That's the thing we want TPMs to see, do more high-value work and companies want to see that. Move yourself away from low value work, which is likely to be replaced either by AI or other functions are may even not have the need and become obsolete. 

Next up. Like everybody else, TPMS need to be following the technique technology trends. The tech industry is ever evolving, ever changing.  There's so many new technical advancements coming in. As you've just seen in the last year. There's so many new trends. Developing knowledge and expertise in that will help. 

The TPMs to  carve out a niche for themselves. They can make informed decisions. They can navigate emerging technologies and challenges associated with that. As you can see, in fact, AI has really created hiring boom.  Many startups have so many open TPM roles 

finally. TPMS need to continue to build strong relationships across departments. And this is crucial. For TPMS to succeed. These cross-functional relationships will really help them understand the needs and perspectives of different stakeholders. Facilitating smoother execution. The TPM role is not meant to be individualistic. It is meant to be worked in partnership with others. 

 One of the key things. That TPMS can develop again, is a key sense of understanding and intuition of other people.  I can tell you, this is something that AI is going to have. Hard time replacing. Because it is not always easy to understand and know everything about the other person through AI. 

way to build relationships is to really build it based on trust, empathy, and understanding of others' needs. The TPM role is far from dead. It has evolved to still be a vital asset in the technical industry. And it will remain so.  Lay offs and reorganizations are common and probably will continue to happen. 

Some roles will shift around, move around. But TPMS have proven their worth by bringing immense value to organizations. 

There are many roles in startups and tech domains like generative. That that show that these companies know the value of TPMS and they're looking for them. To come in and help them scale and move forward. 

The TPM role is still alive. It's thriving and those who evolve with the times, will continue to make a significant impact in the tech industry. I hope this was helpful. Thank you for joining me. And I will see you on another episode of unleash your leadership. Bye.