Here’s Why You Should Leave Product Prioritization to Engineering Leaders | by Ben Biran | September 2023


Let the engineering managers take ownership of the priorities. A bold move, but here’s why it’s the future and your team’s secret weapon

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In this series, we’ll explore how shifting prioritization responsibilities from product managers to engineering managers can improve team velocity. We will first look at the main benefits of this change. The following articles will explain how to assess the suitability of this approach for your team and provide practical steps to get started.

When I joined Zapier as an Engineering Manager (EM) within the Interfaces team in In October 2022, I focused on organizing work in our Jira board and implementing automation to streamline the software development lifecycle. The team was small (two full-time engineers and a contractor) and I was tasked with putting a process in place that would keep us nimble and focused on shipping speed.

At the time, interfaces was in alpha, fresh out of Zap Connect, where the product was advertised. We only had a dozen free users and were focused on building the minimum viable product (MVP).

I asked Luke Thomas, the team’s senior product manager (PM), if he let me drive a process I’d used with previous teams I led. The process was different from how other Zapier teams moved. As an SME, I would own the prioritization work. Rather than Luke managing the Jira board, I would decide which tasks would take priority.

Although Luke would always provide a bigger picture direction, I would sequence tasks in a way that maximizes team efficiency. This approach would immediately shift certain decisions, such as how much technology debt to address each week and even the sequence of feature creation, from product-centric responsibility to engineering responsibility.

Fortunately, Luke was willing to give it a try. It was win-win. “I was thrilled when Ben volunteered to own Jira and associated processes,” he recalls. “Managing Jira was already a source of organizational heartburn for me. I wanted to spend most of my time talking to clients and determining which projects were most important.


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