What’s the best ratio between Eng, UX, and PM?

There are many articles we can find from different product development teams around the world showing benchmarks of Eng:PM and UX:PM ratios. There’s a recent article from Ken Norton, partner at Google Ventures and formerly head of product management at Google and Yahoo!, where he shares the results of an informal survey he did on Twitter:

“A significant majority of the tweets recommended something in the range of 5–9 engineers for every 1 PM. There were reasons why people recommended going higher or lower, but it seems to be a sweet spot. Thinking back on my own experience, my highest-performing teams also fell within that range.”

“When it comes to designers, I’ve preferred a ratio of 1:1 with PMs for user-facing product surfaces. Product teams work best when the dedicated triad of PM, designer, and tech lead form the core.”

So it seems the general recommendation is 5 to 9 Eng per PM and 1 UX per PM.

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Some real-life numbers

At Gympass we’ve been working to increase the number of engineers per product managers. In our recent efforts, growing the team from 32 to 85 people in 5 months already increased the Eng/PM ratio as well as UX/PM ratio. Our plan is to reach the end of 2019 with almost 200 people in our product development team, with even more engineers per product manager and a better balance between UX designers and product managers.

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All benchmarks are clear when they explain that every product manager should be paired with one UX, especially for customer-facing products. In our case, we have 3 different types of customers (end users, gyms, and corp) what reinforces the need to keep the recommended 1 UX designer per product manager ratio.

At ContaAzul we already had a good Eng/PM ratio when I joined in Aug/16. However the UX/PM ratio was below market standards. Especially if we take into consideration that one of the 4 core values at ContaAzul is to deliver Wow to customers. For this reason, we worked on increasing the UX designers to product managers ratio so we could increase the Wow delivered to customers.

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At Locaweb many products we built were for software engineers. Web hosting, database hosting, SMTP, cloud and dedicated servers. For this reason, the number of engineers per product manager is bigger than ContaAzul and Gympass. It’s even bigger than the recommended upper limit of 9 engineers per product manager. However, we can see an interesting fact in UX designer per product manager ratio. As seen in Aug/15 numbers, an increased ratio of Eng/PM forces an increase in UX/PM compared to the recommended 1:1 ratio. When we look at Jul/16 numbers, if we add more engineers per product manager, getting to almost 12 Eng/PM, we had to increase the UX/PM to almost 2:1. We had to pair 2 UX designers for every product manager so they can cope with all discovery work that need to be done so engineers can build the right product. Considering engineers as delivery and UX designers and product managers as discovery, that makes me think that we need around one discovery person for every 4 delivery people.

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Share your numbers!

In your company, how many engineers per product managers and UX designers per product managers do you have? Share your numbers in the comments below so we can build more data to help us discuss product development team structure best practices.

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Digital product development advisor, mentor, board member. And open water swimmer!

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