In order to demonstrate how important the role of PM is, we will talk about one project that allowed us to acquire very important insights regarding this role.
Last year, we had a new project in the field of Fintech. Legacy:
The customer’s system processed up to 80 million payments per day. A need has arisen to process up to 1.5 billion operations per day.
We met with a potential customer and asked an important question: who will lead the project?
The customer suggested that their Product Owner can easily perform Project Manager functions.
The project started very cheerfully. Every month we held a DEMO in front of the Customer’s founders. At the end of each demo, PO has been making a forecast for future dates.
Unexpectedly, by the end of the 4th month, it turned out that the shareholders expected the project to be ready in 2-3 weeks, but according to the PO estimate, there was still work for 3-4 months.
After thourough analysis we found out that the bottleneck was the lack of detailed project management, because the PO was overloaded. He was simultaneously the PO, the BA and the PM.
As a result, we brought an independent PM to the project.
The next month we had very hot interactions with the customer. At the same time, everyone coped with the conflict.
The PM made a detailed plan for 2.5 months, and the team met this deadline.
As a result, we still work very closely with this customer, taking part in his other projects.
This example shows that the PM role is extremely important.
The PM must have sufficient time and other resources, otherwise the project will face serious risks of increasing costs and time consumption.
The PM role is a “locomotive role”, i.e. the PM is responsible for moving the project in the right direction.
In terms of frequency of monitoring:
- The customer should monitor the project every two weeks/once a month.
- The PO at least twice a week.
- The PM every day.
The PM solves the problem of operational management and makes project status forecast.
He is like an airplane pilot. You need to reach your destination in a certain time and with a limited supply of fuel. In particular, this means that the PM role is to clear away obstacles, solve crisis situations of the project.
Is it possible to combine PM responsibilities with other roles?
On small projects, the PM role can be combined. But you need to combine it with ”locomotive roles”.
- For example, with PO.
- Combining with “expert roles “ is possible in particular situations where you have a proven ”human orchestra”.
What roles does the PM interact with? And how does he ensure that the project is implemented on a day-to-day basis?
The PM is essentially the link between the PO and the team.
Everything starts with a dialog with the PO, the BA, and the Architect that provides top-level planning, timing assessment, and understanding of the architecture and technology stack of development.
So the first PM function is
planning and forecasting project deadlines and budget.
At the next step the PM has to assemble a team for the project’s tasks (analysts, developers, DevOps, testers, etc.). And flexibly change its composition if necessary.
Thus, the second function of the PM:
recruit for the project a team with appropriate competencies.
Third task of the PM:
Provide the development team with the necessary tools
All team members should have access to the tasktracker, project information storage, and communication channel (we prefer Jira, Confluence, and Slack, respectively), and developers need access to the repository (GitLab, BitBucket, or GitHub)
This completes the preparatory stage of work.
As soon as working process has started the PM must establish communication in such a way that the Customer would be able to monitor the development process at any time.
Transparency of the processes is vitally important.
For this purpose the PM together with the Team Lead creates task structure in a tasktracker, makes sure that developers split their tasks into subtasks too (i.e. do decomposition), update tasks promptly and keep record of the time spent.
Regular communications. It is obligatory to have regular communications.
Daily scrum meeting is important, and regular meetings for the team planning. It is important for the PO to participate, because this allows to match expectations, and correct direction of the development if necessary.
Following the processes’ tracks by all project members allows the PM to ensure interdependence of the tasks and their consistent accomplishments.
We can summarize all mentioned above in two functions of The project tasks management (4) and The project team management (5)
Final function of the PM:
Present results and current plans to the PO and the Customer.
We understand that business customers “love with eyes”, therefore the PM organizes regular DEMO, once in few weeks, where the customer can “touch, click” the result and give a feedback.
What competencies should a person have in order to become good PM?
Priority are soft skills:
- Positive attitude to people
- Communication abilities
- Emotional intellect
The PM also needs to be sensitive and watchful enough in order to keep warm emotional atmosphere in the team.
- Determination to have things done.
- Ability to find out-of-box decisions.
To conclude I’d like to use a metaphor:
The Project Manager is like an orchestra conductor, music notes is the project plan, and the orchestra is the project team.
The PM is valuable not only by what he implements in the project but also by resources he has outside the project.
It would be good to add that soft skills of the PM increase efficiency only when there is a strong team of developers of various technology stacks with rich professional experience. In our case we have such.
And if the project would need a specific expert’s consultation outside of main stack of the team, the PM is able to provide it without extra financial expenses from the Customer’s side.