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How to help software developers and PMs like each other

Malte Scholz

Can't everyone just get along?

Yes, actually, they can!

Software developers and product managers are often at odds with each other. As two sides of the same coin, each sometimes has different plans for achieving goals, which creates conflict. Conflict, especially in a startup, is no good.

We want to eliminate conflict and align everyone with the same goals to create great products. Only then can teams collaborate effectively.

So, let’s look at why software developers and product managers struggle to work together, and how to empower them to overcome these obstacles and align their work.

Then everyone wins. Winning is good.

Why do PMs and software engineers butt heads?

Developers and product managers look at the project from different perspectives. Even for product managers who come from a development background, their success metrics are different from the development team’s.

Product managers are focused on deadlines and revenue, while developers are focused on creating the best possible product. Combine this with starkly different daily routines, and you have two crucial parts of the software project on separate paths.

For those on the outside, the goals of a product manager and the development team may seem identical, in a similar way to the idea of outputs and outcomes. The difference between outputs and outcomes are, in a sense, the same as the differences between the goals of a developer and product manager.

Developers focus on outputs: the deliverables that come together to form a product. Developers need to harness their creativity to achieve output-based goals. Outputs are a purely quantitative measure, so while they are simple to achieve, they have little impact on the business side of things.

Product managers focus on outcomes: the objectives that the business is looking to achieve through the product. This could be increased sales, greater brand awareness, or any other business-related objective.

Outcomes are both qualitative and quantitative, which gives product managers an idea to chase and a well-defined business-related metric they need to achieve.

5 benefits of a culture of collaboration

Fostering a culture of collaboration between developers and product managers can offer real change that improves your processes and can even spread throughout the entire organization.

Let’s take a look at some of those benefits.

1. Better culture

Collaboration brings team members together to create great products. As development processes continue, teams get to know each other better and form real connections. Before long, those working on a project go from colleagues to real friends.

2. Build better products

It doesn’t take a genius to know that great products come from teams that collaborate well, including developers and product managers. The less conflict between team members, the more time can be spent creating high-quality products packed with value.

3. More agility, less friction

In a collaborative culture, teams can adapt to changes much faster than teams that struggle to work together. Teams need to work together to pivot their workflow when the software project needs it: especially agile teams!

4. Streamlined process

Collaborative teams are always on the same page, which means they can stay focused on what really matters. This means less time trying to figure out how to build the product and more time actually building it.

5. Better alignment

Building a culture of collaboration helps every person involved in a project stay aligned with company and product visions. All team members, from developers to product managers to stakeholders, are aware of the product goals and how they will achieve them.

How can you help devs and PMs work together and build a culture of collaboration?

Creating teams that collaborate well starts in the hiring phase. Some people prefer to work alone and simply cannot do their best work when working with others. There’s nothing wrong with that - but they’re not the type of person you want to hire for a development team.

When hiring developers, or new product managers, you need to determine their level of empathy and make sure they have good communication skills. By hiring someone who can empathize with others and clearly communicate their thoughts, you can be sure they’ll be a great fit within a team setting.

It can also help to align the team with higher-level initiatives. This helps to give context to product teams’ actions and helps engineering teams understand the business objectives. It also means that both product managers and engineering managers work toward the same goal in the same timeframe, rather than having their own targets.

For DevOps teams, a DevOps Roadmap can be a handy tool for bringing developers and product managers together, especially for newcomers to the methodology. The DevOps Roadmap will give everyone a high-level and strategic blueprint of the company’s goals for a project while breaking it down into an easy-to-understand, granular view. This creates a clear picture of what needs to happen for anyone who looks at the roadmap.

While it may seem counterintuitive, it can be beneficial to separate tasks. So, instead of a product manager being involved in sprint planning or writing technical Stories, these tasks can be left solely to the development team.

By doing this, the developers are empowered to work in their own way, rather than worrying about how to work in the way that a product manager has told them to. Meanwhile, the product manager escapes much of the nitty-gritty and can focus on the big picture. This is a win for both sides.

By allowing each party to simply do the job they’ve been hired to do, you can reduce friction between devs and PMs and improve collaboration efforts. Teamwork.

There's always space to improve, no matter which side of the coin you’re on. One way to do that is to choose the right issue tracking and project management tool that fosters the most collaboration. Give Shortcut a try for free.

To talk more about how to help software developers and product managers collaborate effectively, airfocus + Shortcut are teaming up for a webinar on Tuesday, May 24th. Register now to join the discussion!

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