Software Engineering, Project Management, and Effectiveness
What is a PM (Program Manager)? While the Program Manager role seems unique to Microsoft, in general, when you map it to other companies, it’s a product manager, or a project manager, or a combination of the two. At Microsoft, there are various flavors of PMs (“design” PM, “project” PM, “process” PM, etc.) and the PM discipline can be very different in different groups. I’ve also seen the PM title used as a general job title, in the absence of something more specific.
At Microsoft it’s a role that means many things to many people. In general though, when you meet a PM at Microsoft, you expect somebody who has vision, can drive a project to completion, can manage scope and resources, coordinate work across a team, bridge the customer, the business, and the technology, act as a customer champ, and influence without authority. From a metaphor standpoint, they are often the hub to the spokes, they drive ideas to done, they take the ball and run with it, or find out who should run with the ball. Some PMs are better at thought leadership, some are better at people leadership, and the best are great at both.
Here is a roundup of some of my favorite points that elaborate, clarify, and distill what a PM is, what a PM does, and how to be one.
Attributes and Qualities of a PM Here is a list of key attributes from Steven Sinofsky’s post -- PM at Microsoft:
Here is an example of PM qualities from Sean Lyndersay’s post -- Exchange team defines a Program Manager:
Microsoft Careers site on Program Manager Here is a description of a Program Manager from the Microsoft Careers site: “As a Program Manager, you’ll drive the technical vision, design, and implementation of next-generation software solutions. You’ll transform the product vision into elegant designs that will ultimately turn into products used by Microsoft customers. Managing feature sets throughout the product lifecycle, you’ll have the chance to see your design through to completion. You’ll also work directly with other key team members including Software Development Engineers and Software Development Engineers in Test. Program Managers are advocates for end-users, so your passion for anticipating customer needs and creating outside-the-box solutions for them will really help you shine in this role. As a Program Manager you will have the ability to lead within a product’s life cycle using evangelism, empathy, and negotiation to define and deliver results. You will also be responsible for authoring technical specifications, including envisaged usage cases, customer scenarios, and prioritized requirements lists.”
Chris Pratley on Program Manager Here are some points on Program Management from Chris Pratley’s post -- Program Manager:
Here are the stages of your first year as a PM, according to Pratley:
Joel Spolsky on Program Manager Here are points from Joel’s post on How To Be a Program Manager:
Ray Schraff on Program Manager Here are point from the comments on Chris Pratley’s post, Program Management:
Sean Lyndersay on Program Manager
Steven Sinofsky on Program Manager Here are points from Sinfoksy’s post on PM at Microsoft:
My Related Posts
FANTASTIC compilation! I've come to expect the most from your amalgamations. This one may be your best yet. For those of us new to the game, this broad yet succinct collection of perspectives of what defines a PM is the best I've encountered. Thank you.
@ Jimmy - Thank you! Compiling this was fun because it forced me to explore to see what sorts of ways people have justified and made sense of the PM discipline. It's a unique role to Microsoft and that's what I like so much about it.