Where Has The Distinction Gone?​

Over the last two decades while projects have adopted a more technical nature, and the lines between a Business Project Manager and a Technical Project Manager have blurred.

This article addresses the differences between the two, and why both are often needed for the successful delivery of a technical implementation.

Definition: Business Vs. Technical​

What’s the difference between a Business PM and a Technical PM’s responsibilities?

Though the title is the same, that doesn’t mean one person can do it. It takes multiple, specialized developers to build a feature, and it takes multiple specialized project managers to deliver it.

Business Project Manager roles and responsibilities include:
  • Responsible for business documentation, such as the business case, charter, SOW.
  • Reports the project’s status and health to the business owner/sponsor.
  • Interfaces with clients and stakeholders to ensure business requirements are captured and planned for.
  • Develops and maintains the overall project plan (schedule, RAID, management plans, communications, etc.)
  • Ensures traceability between the business requirements, features developed, Business Acceptance Testing (BAT), and User Acceptance Testing (UAT).
  • Manages escalations.
  • Manages the budget.
Technical Project Manager Roles and Responsibilities Include:
  • Responsible for ensuring the technical requirements of a project are gathered and understood by relevant parties (e.g., development team, testing team).
  • Works with the technical team to define sprints.
  • Provides the Business PM with a technical timeline to slot into the overarching schedule.
  • Provides the Business PM with updates on development & testing progress.
  • Attends technical conversations to gather action items, risks, and reports them back to the business project manager.
  • Ensures the technical team is aware of changing business needs so they can be translated into updated technical requirements.
  • Ensure traceability between the technical requirements through features developed, internal quality assurance testing (QA), System Integration Testing (SIT).
  • Works with the Business PM to resolve bugs during User Acceptance Testing (UAT).
  • Manages deployment tasks.
  • Ensures the Business PM gets status updates on development.

These lists aren’t all encompassing, but they give you an idea for the clear delineation between the two roles.

Evolution: How The Roles Have Merged​

So if the roles are so different, why are companies writing job descriptions and hiring for a combined role?

The answer is simple – everyone’s “in tech”, right? If you’re a Project Manager, it’s assumed you understand the technical details of the project. The problem with that assumption is, well, that it’s entirely unfounded.

Project Managers often don’t have the technical know-how because they were never taught the details of a tech project. And why should they be? Their role is to just manage the project – they don’t have to understand all of the details, right?


That’s one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen in Project Management talent planning – that PM’s are brought on and not trained on what they are managing. They’re expected to be versatile, being able to manage anything by applying industry best practices, but when a PM doesn’t know the difference between an API call, and developing a custom feature, how can they be expected to develop a realistic project plan?

When Both Are Needed

Small Technical Implementations

Sometimes a combined role can work.

In these cases, the technical implementation could be small and simple, or the technical team is available to provide updated estimates as the project is moving forward. This often works well when the whole team (business and tech) are located in the same place, and the teams are small.

Large Technical Implementations


  • The great thing about having a business and technical Project Manager on a large technical implementation is that both PM’s may actually have the time to do their job. If a PM is expecting to sit in on every single call, I guarantee you that they won’t have time to complete the project’s documentation, manage stakeholders, risks, and communications, and work on their other six projects at the same time.


  • Another benefit of having both on a large project is the specialization. Less time will be spent “translating” between the business and tech teams. Leave that to the two PM’s.


These days, technical teams aren’t often in-house. They’re located around the world in different time zones. Having a Technical PM situated with the technical team ensures that they Business PM only needs to get a hold of one person, and vice versa to communicate project information.


Between a Business PM and a Technical PM, the roles are similar, but have a very different focus. If an experienced Project Manager is capable of doing both, the assigning manager should still ask themselves whether that is right call, because it could take the PM away from focusing on one area, for multiple projects.

Obviously cost is a factor, and many companies can’t afford to double their PM team just to split the roles, but Managers, there’s a better solution:

Talk to your teams.

See which of your PM’s have business skills and which ones are more technical. Provide training to fill gaps, and allocate resources in a more efficient way moving forward. Adjust your hiring plans based on which side you need to ramp up, and you’ll find that things will go a lot smoother when the two lanes work in parallel, instead of trying to lay them on top of each other.