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Understanding the Role of Project Managers

Most people think that a Project Manager actually can’t do anything and knows nothing. All this person does is manage other people and the project. In fact, a PM has a lot of specific knowledge in various fields in order to be able to manage the project as a whole. In this article, I’d like to share what skills help them manage project scope, cost, and timeline while maintaining product quality.

The role of a PM on a project

The content of the project, its cost, timing, and quality are determined by the customer at the start. 

The PM doesn’t manage the development itself directly but the development process. This specialist will never code new functionality, but at the same time, they are able to organize the work so that everything is done on time, without bugs, and at the agreed price. Without the PM, all this will either be uncontrollable and have an incomprehensible result or will fall on the shoulders of another specialist (we will talk about this below).

Such work is often delegated to someone or distributed among several people. But in this case, we must understand that productivity falls, and collective responsibility is equal to irresponsibility. Who can provide a complete picture of what is going on on the project?

The PM deals with building processes for high-quality team interaction. Quite often, the processes that worked at the beginning of the project should be improved after some time or even completely changed. This is precisely the important work of the PM: to understand and see how classic processes should be adapted and modified for each unique project over time. 

The PM studies various project management methodologies and, depending on the project input, needs, and goals, realizes which methodology should be implemented or changed: Waterfall, Scrum, Kanban, Lean, etc. Each methodology has its pros and cons, each works perfectly, and can lead a project to success if chosen sensibly. The PM understands, chooses, and informs the customer and the team how best to act on a particular project.

The PM has knowledge in risk management. This specialist must anticipate vulnerabilities and critical spots that can prevent the project from reaching the final goal. To do this, the PM prepares and manages risk tables and thinks of a plan to avoid such incidents.

The PM is a good negotiator and understands interpersonal relationships, building a comfortable atmosphere within a team. After all, the better the environment within the team is, the more productive results are obtained. The PM understands when to motivate and facilitate the team and when to start a serious conversation and stop the onset of chaos.

Apart from the team, the PM also works with the customer: negotiates, clarifies inaccuracies, highlights risks, and reports on the progress. To put it simply, this professional does everything possible to ensure that the work process goes accurately, smoothly, and according to plan. 

The PM saves customers time and money. Therefore, the PM manages the project and stands higher in the team, but at the same time bears great responsibility.

Does a project need a PM?

From the perspective of project development, the PM is useless - they will never fix an error in the code, will never bring the server back up, and will never implement an important feature. But it is the PM who will assemble the team, explain what to work on now and what the deadlines are, and will deliver the required functionality to the customer on time.

If you don't have a PM and think that everything is fine, try to answer the following questions:

  • Who is responsible for the entire project?
  • Who is responsible for deadlines, risks, and plans?
  • Who is in charge of the processes and organization?
  • Who communicates with the customer?
  • Whom will you go to with questions at the end of the project?

Imagine how performance and quality of work will boost if you stop delegating all of these issues to different team members but put them in the hands of a separate specialist or one of the project management service providers.

When the role of the manager is distributed among everyone, things are difficult. The team is in chaos, you risk getting bogged down in meetings, discussions, and calls with the customer to explain everything that is happening and what will happen next.

Calculate the cost of these meetings. One hour of each team member’s time costs a certain amount of money, which means that each of your meetings can be calculated in monetary terms. You may hope that, after all the meetings, you will reach an understanding and resolve issues, but what if you don’t?

When one of the developers takes on the responsibilities of a PM, you reduce their development time. Since you can’t delegate the duties of a PM to a junior developer, this will be one of the most experienced team members. This means that the progress will slow down because the developer isn’t doing what they are really good at but is beginning to learn how to manage a project.

Only a really exceptional specialist who understands the customer and the business and knows how to manage, communicate, and, of course, program, can combine the role of a Team Lead and a PM. But such people are very rare and very expensive.

Conclusion

The PM solves all process and risky issues with a result that satisfies the whole team. This specialist ensures high-quality communication within the team and with the customer. Negotiations can be difficult, multifaceted, and they need to be able to successfully deliver structured information.

Now answer the question: "Do I need a PM on my project?"

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