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Creating Optimal TPM Org Reporting Structure

The ideal TPM org structure depends on multiple factors that can change over time: company priorities, organization size, and team’s maturity. The program scale and cross-functionality are also important to consider when designing the TPM org structure. 


TPM org structure

Centralized vs. Decentralized Models

TPM organizations can either be centralized under a single TPM leader, who may be at Director level or higher, or embedded directly within smaller engineering or product teams, reporting to the respective team managers (decentralized)


CENTRALIZED

DECENTRALIZED

PROS

  • Aligns TPMs with company level priorities allowing them to see the complete picture and cut across team boundaries.

  • Fosters excellence due to uniform standards for defining the TPM role and responsibilities, assessing performance, and hiring practices. 

  • Reduce duplication of work by streamlining processes across the organization.

  • Promotes greater ownership, alignment with team’s goals.

  • Promotes domain expertise with direct influence on strategic decisions. 

  • Provides deeper connection and belonging with the immediate team.

CONS

  • Difficulty getting a seat at the table and influencing critical decisions. 

  • Viewed as outsiders which may impact relationships and collaboration.

  • Inconsistent results from TPMs due to differences in hiring standards and performance assessment.  

  • Inefficiencies due to potential lack of communication between TPMs from different teams. 

  • Stagnated career growth due to lack of scope or role understanding. 

BEST FOR

  • Medium to large organizations with more than 5 TPMs.

  • Startups or small organizations with less than 5 TPMs. 

Many large organizations (100+ TPMs) blend these approaches, forming multiple, smaller centralized teams aligned with specific business verticals. This provides the benefits of both models since at this point, standards have been established and strong TPM leaders are in place to lead TPM teams.


Reporting Lines: Engineering vs. Product

In both centralized or decentralized models, the TPMs or TPM manager can report to either an engineering leader or product leader. 


REPORTING TO ENGINEERING

REPORTING TO PRODUCT

PROS

  • Maintains technical edge for TPMs, fostering closer collaboration with engineers and ability to influence technical decisions. 

  • Allows for TPM support for key engineering programs where product managers may not be involved.

  • Improves engineering operational efficiency and productivity.

  • Stronger understanding of requirements and customer needs due to involvement in the early phases of product development lifecycle. 

  • Allows for stronger collaboration with the product team. 

CONS

  • TPMs may not feel empowered to hold PMs accountable for deliverables.

  • TPMs may get pulled into tactical tasks. 


  • TPMs may not be included in technical discussions resulting in poor program execution. 

  • Can cause role confusion between PM and TPM due to the overlapping aspects of the two roles. 

  • TPMs may view becoming a product manager as a better career prospect increasing churn and impacting execution.


RECOMMENDED: Since there are more benefits when reporting to engineering leaders, it is more commonly seen across tech companies big and small as shown in the following examples.



Case Studies

  • At Meta, centralized TPMs in areas like Infrastructure and Instagram usually reported up to their respective org-level VPs - for example, VP of Infrastructure TPM team reported to SVP of Infra Engineering. In cases of smaller TPM teams or individual TPMs, they would most commonly report into engineering leaders while about 10-15% report into a product organization.

  • At Cruise, TPMs in both software and hardware sectors report to senior engineering leaders, ultimately under the SVP of Engineering and CTO.

  • At a smaller startup, TPMs reported to a centralized Program Management Office (PMO) under the SVP of Engineering.

  • At companies like Doordash and Github, TPMs sometimes report to Engineering Operations leaders who generally report to the CTO.


Conclusion

The effectiveness of any TPM structure depends significantly on how well the leader supporting the TPMs understands the role and function. Leaders should focus on how TPMs can maximize value delivery to both users and the organization.



 

Building a new TPM organization and not sure where to start? I can help you setup an effective org structure, implement performance management systems, and hire the top talent. Set up a free consultation call to learn more about my fractional and consulting services to empower your organization to execute strategically.

 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


What is a TPM in an organization?

A Technical Program Manager (TPM) is responsible for overseeing and coordinating the technical aspects of a project or program, ensuring alignment with company objectives and facilitating communication between different teams.

What factors influence the optimal TPM org structure?

What are the pros and cons of a centralized TPM org structure?

What are the advantages of a decentralized TPM structure?

How do reporting lines differ in centralized vs. decentralized TPM models?

What are the benefits of TPMs reporting to engineering versus product?

Which TPM org structure is best for large organizations?

How do companies like Meta and Cruise structure their TPM organizations?

Why might TPMs prefer reporting to engineering leaders?

What are some challenges faced by TPMs in a decentralized model?



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