PM's responsibility #4: Work with Engineers

I bought a new apartment a few years ago and before moving in we set to completely renovate it. We first wrote down everything that we could possibly think of doing in our new home and then we worked with an architect to come up with functional and esthetically pleasing floor plan. With the blueprint ready, it was time to start with actual renovation work, so we employed construction engineers, plumbers, electrical engineers, painters, carpenters, and other experts to realize our vision into reality. While we prepared quite a detailed plan, the renovation nonetheless required my constant presence to answer many questions that craftsmen had and to verify that results of their work matched the specification. And it happened quite often that craftsmen pointed out flaws in specification that we had to sort out on the spot and which substantially improved the end results.

My personal experience with apartment renovation matches perfectly my professional experience with working with engineers as a product manager. First, without a comprehensive and fully thought-out plan the problems will just start piling up, since the major flaws in the specification cannot be fixed on the spot and in a particular manner. The worst that can happen is that engineers start steering product development according to their understanding of the target market and customers, which is rarely correct. Second, even the best plan will fell short if the engineers are incompetent, careless, or without a proper supervision. Therefore, the product manager should be frequently present at the construction site, answering questions, verifying execution, and listening to feedback of people putting his or hers plan in action. When product people and engineers work in unison for the common goal, the end results are as satisfactory as our apartment turned out to be (except for the missing water tap on the balcony for the lush garden Tina is keeping there).

This is part of series of posts on product manager's responsibilities as we see them at Zemanta.