The Vital Role of a Project Manager
<p>How important are PMs really? They don’t just overlook the development process. Read this article to see their range of tasks and how beneficial they are.</p>
Who Is a Project Manager
A project manager (PM) is a person that leads, organizes and controls a software development project. But in actuality, they do way more. Even though clients don’t always see the value in PMs their importance can hardly be understated. They hold the whole development process together.
There is a term called “project management triangle” which means successfully meeting the scope, budget, and time requirements. But the project manager responsibilities are much more than that. The full range of their tasks makes this role a valuable part of any software development team. If a person is a technologically knowledgeable, well-organized leader who understands the vision of the client they have good project management skills.
In the most basic form, a life cycle of the position looks like this:
Why Project Management Is Needed
To illustrate just how useful a PM can be here are some tasks they perform.
Project managers are the ones to make important decisions. Without a leader, a team can still work, but it would certainly lack direction. Providing necessary motivation and guidance vastly improves productivity. When presented with a vision it’s easier to understand the requirements and what the client expects from the final product. In addition to being in control, PMs are also accountable for any discrepancies.
Related to the previous point, a clear understanding of the requirements means that the product should be valuable to the business of the customer. Often the tasks are unclear and vague, which leads to stagnation of development. Keeping the strategic goals of the client in mind and passing them on to the developers, makes the process focused and the project relevant.
Making an accurate estimate can be the sole deciding factor for the success or failure of the work. To read more about the estimation process you can read our article on the topic. Project management provides the team with a plan that is efficient and manageable at the same time. It is a difficult task, but anticipating and planning for all the possible delays while balancing the resources and budget is very important.
Monitoring and Control
The oversight of the development process is among the many recurring daily jobs covered by project management. They ensure that it follows the plan by successfully reaching established milestones and making sure that the goals feasible. They also provide comprehensive status reports to the customers with detailed information. There are well-established systems that allow them to do so.
Handling finances is one of the main responsibilities of project managers. Staying within budget is a major key to the client’s satisfaction. PMs manage how many resources are spent on each phase of development. If the budget changes, they decide what adjustments should be made.
Problems PMs Can Fix
Difficult adaptation to changes
A lot of the times when requirements have to change it can lead to disarray among the team, and sometimes it happens without any warning. If that’s the case, the priorities can become unclear. The developers may be unsure of what the next step should be. That’s why a solid leader is needed who’ll steer the ship in the right direction.
Unexpected things happen. Every once in a while deadlines can be missed by even the most well-organized companies. However, if this happens regularly, it is an organization problem. It means that the person responsible for the estimation lacks the proper vision. When delegating this task to a competent leader, the plans become more coherent. In addition, PMs motivate the team to boost their productivity.
Multiple financially unsuccessful projects
In a similar vein, bad estimates can affect not only time but the cost as well. When the budget is too small, the savings on resources leads to poor quality. Alternatively, when it's too big the return on investment doesn’t always reach the desired numbers. Allocating the appropriate budget for each task increases the chances of financial success.
Unclear where delays are coming from
It can be very frustrating when you can’t identify a reason for emerging problems. This uncertainty is counterproductive. Having a person who is always in control of the process eliminates that. Monitoring detects the bottlenecks that should be taken care of before they cause major delays.
Poor communication with clients
Misunderstandings at the kickoff phase can resurface later down the line and be catastrophic to the product. Soft skills and an in-depth understanding of the client’s needs and pains completely negate that risk. By serving as a point of contact for both the client and the developers PMs ensure that communication is always smooth.
Benefits of Project Management
If a solid plan is developed, then the quality of the product will be higher. By scheduling an appropriate time for each task the developers won’t be overworked or have to rush to meet deadlines. At the same time they will have enough time to do the job properly and be efficient enough to provide timely updates. Also, since PMs are responsible for the quality of the product, the QA process will be thorough and complete.
The ability to manage, predict, and mitigate risks is a significant benefit of having a PM. The larger the scope, the larger the potential dangers. One missed deadline can cause substantial damage to the client’s business. It's rare for the process to go perfectly according to plan. That’s why contingency plans are so important. They help the team if any of the risks happen to materialize.
Knowledge of the Subject
Usually, there is no person as knowledgeable about the particular topic at hand as the project manager. They provide guidance and share their expertise with the rest of the team. They help with choosing the appropriate tools for the job, keeping in mind the advantages and limitations of each one. This also helps with delegating and control by ensuring that everyone does what they are supposed to. It strikes a balance between the creative and technical aspects of development.
Learning From Mistakes
We are all human, and we all make mistakes. The best thing to do is to learn from them and use that experience to avoid failure in the future. A PM ensures that the same mistake won’t be repeated. After the completion of every project, they create a report of everything that went well and what could be better. After several of those, common patterns start emerging. They can be modified to make the development process more efficient.
One of the less obvious benefits is that PMs often serve the connecting link between the stakeholders and the developer team. This helps with communication and understanding between all parties. Establishing a business relationship with the stakeholders also helps to influence their decisions.
The list of tasks and benefits of a PM can never be fully complete. They manage every step from the kickoff to the final handover. As a result, they are always in demand. From acting as a point of contact for all parties to sharing knowledge and motivating the developers, the role of the project manager is vital.