On the C# team, I'm a Release Program Manager aka the “Box” PM. Release PM's are different from feature PM's in that they dont focus exclusively on a technology area (such as the debugger, compiler, IDE etc). They have a more global scope where they look to understand -

  • When's our product going to ship? Are we on track for that? This involves working with groups on scheduling milestones, tracking our current progress, creating processes to track new features etc etc.
  • Is our current product the right one? Do we need to make changes? A release PM tends to look across all the feature areas and understand overall how our little piece of the world (in my case Visual C#) contributes to the vision of the shipping product (Visual Studio).

There are a ton of other jobs we do, but the above two are the big ones. Often we get ribbed about not being as technical as the other PM's, but a strong release PM can do wonders to an organization in getting the right product shipped. A strong release PM is always looking ahead at the schedule, trying to keep in touch with the current feature requests, looking for ways to balance bugs, resources and processes to optimize the shipping of the product.

Anyone else have any experience out there of being a release PM or a Project manager (which I assume would be the closest non MS role to what I do)? I'd love to hear best practices you might have learned from being involved in a release role! In case you were worried, over the next couple of weeks I will be blogging about best practices I've learned being a release PM (so the information sharing wont be strictly one way :-) ).