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What is the right PM to Eng ratio? I’m the first PM and we have 8 engineers and 1 Designer.

6 Answers
Ingo Wiegand
Ingo Wiegand
Samsara Vice President of Product Management - SafetyMarch 31
  • The right PM to Eng ratio depends on a couple of different factors, many of which can from my perspective be boiled down to 1) the overall stage and scale of the company and 2) the nature of the product you are working on. Given those dependencies, it also makes sense to revisit this decision at key turning points of your product (or company).
  • Practically speaking, the traditional ‘2 pizza box team’ of 8-10 engineers per PM is a decent baseline to start with. Here are a few example considerations of how I would think about adjusting this ratio for individual teams based on scale and product considerations:

Scale

  • Larger scale for an R&D organization usually implies an increased need for coordination and likely more ‘interfaces’ (e.g., there are more product and engineering teams, more platform-wide services, APIs etc.) and in many cases this maturity also brings technical complexity. All of these factors might indicate that a single PM can cover a wider range of engineers, so even a ratio of 1:15 might work in those cases. This doesn’t necessarily mean that a single engineering team needs to hit that size, but PMs might start work that naturally spans multiple (potentially cross-functional) engineering teams
  • Smaller companies can usually start out with an 8-10 engineer per PM ratio and then adjust based on growth trajectory. In hyper-growth scenarios, PM capacity can become a bottleneck, especially when it comes to B2B/Enterprise-oriented products, where in-depth knowledge and a clear articulation of specific customer processes and varying user personas might increase the need for more dedicated PM bandwidth (and critical product trade-offs), adjusting the ratio to 1:6 could temporarily make sense

Nature of the Product

  • A product or feature with high user complexity (e.g., enterprise operations workflows with varying business needs, complex business logic) or high initial business uncertainty (e.g., first foray into a new market) might warrant more PM bandwidth and an adjusted PM to Eng ratio of 5-6 engineers per PM
  • On the opposite end of the spectrum, lower user complexity (or generally higher Eng complexity) would lead me to move towards a ratio that skews towards more engineers per PM (typical examples here could be AI/ML-driven features that might require a wider range of technical expertise and teams to succeed)
1706 Views
DJ Chung
DJ Chung
Atlassian Senior Product ManagerAugust 10

Don't think there's a "right" ratio, but I would say 1 PM to 6-12 engineers is a good ratio. I think beyond 12 engineers, it gets a little difficult for a PM to stay on top of projects and the PM could become a bottlenect to project progress. I would also say 1 designer to 6-12 engineers is a good rule of thumb. 

1130 Views
C. Todd Lombardo
C. Todd Lombardo
Co-author Product Roadmaps RelaunchedJuly 28

I generally go by this guide

  • 7 to 10 engineers for every 1 designer

  • 1 product manager for every 7 to 10 "makers" (designers + engineers)

It's never a hard and fast rule as every company is different. I find that B2C companies need more designers and PMs, but not always.

390 Views
Sam Friedman
Sam Friedman
Eventbrite Senior Director of Product, Strategy and OperationsDecember 22

In my experience, there is no golden ratio or right answer to this question. Many factors determine what the "right" ratio is depending on the industry, org structure, size of the company, and maturity of the company. I have seen PM to Eng ratios from 1PM to 3 engineering all the way up to 1PM for every 20 engineers.

Given you are the first PM you are likely part of a start up and if you are within the tech industry 1 PM to 8 Engineers feels reasonable as you get started and need to build and scale your platform. I suggest getting another PM in the mix as a next step to get your ratio down to 1:4 so you can have two squads rapidly develop, iterate, and solve user problems with more ideas and concepts across experiences. Typically as you start and scale is important having a tighter ratio allows multiple PMs to do rapid problem-solving and development.

That is the ratio I have typically seen within the tech sector (1 PM to 4-5 Eng) but it really depends on the product and where your company is in its journey. The more technical and later stage of the company the ratio is lower (1 to 7-10), the earlier and more customer-experience oriented your company is the ratio is tighter (1 to 4ish)

406 Views
Katherine Man
Katherine Man
HubSpot Group Product Manager, CRM PlatformApril 12

The ideal product manager to engineer ratio can vary from company to company and even team to team, but it usually depends on the company size, product complexity, the skill level of the engineers, and the role scope of the product manager. A general rule of thumb is 1 product manager for every 5-10 engineers.

  • 1:5 - This is common in startups or small teams where the product manager may need to be in the details.

  • 1:10 - As the team and company grows, a product manager may manage larger engineering teams. Sometimes it's one large team or multiple engineering teams. Since product managers don't have time to be in the details for every project, they are expected to work at a higher level on setting product vision and direction rather than detailed product requirements. It is common for senior product managers to manage multiple teams.

  • 1:7 - This is the sweet spot where a product manager can still get into the details of a project while also having a lot of impact with a team of this size.

318 Views
Milena Krasteva
Milena Krasteva
Walmart Sr Director II, Product Management - Marketing TechnologyApril 13

1:10 is what has been used as a rule of thumb in my experience. A PM wears many hats. If you don't have a program manager (pgm/tpm) 30% - 40% of the PM's time may be going into project management activities and you may need an extra PM (or your first TPM) You may be supplementing other functions in the org: marketing, sales, solution consulting, BD. The point here is to assess what are the org needs and what role PM is playing or ought to be playing. It might not be a matter of how many PMs to Eng ratio. How would an extra PM accelerate the busines? If you were the CEO how would you best invest in the next available headcount - an engineer? a data scientist? Any other vs PM? Also worth thinking who else in your org is acting like a PM already - founders?

276 Views
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