The success of any product development project is dependent on a healthy balance of resources. This balance involves balancing the number of engineers and Product Managers (PMs) involved in the development process. While there are no definitive rules or hard data on the optimal ratio of Engineers to PMs, there are some useful guidelines that successful software companies have adopted that can help guide product development teams.
What Exactly is an Engineer to PM Ratio?
An engineer-to-PM ratio is the number of engineers and product managers assigned to a specific development project. This ratio helps determine the number of resources allocated to the completion of the project and how it will be governed. The ratio is typically calculated as the number of engineers divided by the number of product managers.
Why is this Ratio Important?
The engineer-to-PM ratio is important because it helps to determine the type and amount of resources needed to develop a product and then bring it to market successfully. It is also a critical factor in ensuring the overall quality of the final product.
An optimal ratio ensures that sufficient engineering resources are allocated to the development project, while also leaving space for product management resources. It is important to balance the ratio because too few engineers or too many product managers can result in waste and delays in the development process.
How to Calculate Ratios
The most common way to calculate the engineer to PM ratio is to divide the number of engineers by the number of product managers on the team. For example, if there are 8 engineers and 4 PMs on the project, the ratio is calculated as 8:4, or 2:1.
A 2:1 ratio means that for every product manager assigned to the project, there are two engineers assigned. The optimal ratio will vary depending on the type of product being developed, the size of the development project, and the company’s resources.
What is an Optimal Ratio?
There is no clear-cut answer as to what is the optimal ratio of engineers to product managers for any given project. Generally, though, successful companies tend to use a ratio of 2:1 for small projects and 4:1 for larger projects.
High-tech companies such as Amazon, Apple, and Google tend to use a ratio of 3:1 or higher for larger projects. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Netflix have successfully used a mix of 1:1 and 2:1 ratios for smaller projects.
When the Ratio is off Balance
It is important to note that if the engineer to PM ratio is off balance, the quality of the product may suffer, resulting in unintended delays and additional costs. A key indicator of an unbalanced or incorrect ratio is when the engineering team is understaffed or overloaded, or when the product management team is too large or small.
When this occurs, the development process may become inefficient and messy. Product features may be rushed out the door, resulting in a lack of quality, delays in launching the product, or bugs that erode customer experience.
Finding the optimal engineer to PM ratio for a development project is essential for successful product development. Companies should carefully consider their resources and development goals when calculating their ratio to ensure the best possible product outcome.
By striking a balance between engineering and product management resources, companies can ensure a smooth and efficient development process, releasing high-quality products to the market on time and on budget.
Tips for Finding the Right Ratio:
- Identify the type and size of the project.
- Evaluate the number of engineers and PMs needed.
- Choose the optimal ratio for the project.
- Monitor the ratio throughout the development cycle.