Magdalena Klimza, 2021-02-26

Do you need a Project Manager in software development project?

Project Manager in software development project - do you need such specialist? It seems to be a common dillema.

He or she is a mediator between the client and developers, motivates both of them, and quickly solves problems in case of any emergency. Such a person is extremely useful and can save your priceless time as he or she is a single multitasking point of contact. Who is a good PM and what such a person may offer you?  

Who do we call a capable PM?

A project manager is a person who coordinates the project. Their primary goal is to control the product development and finish the works before the deadline. The results must meet the client’s expectations, otherwise the PM will fail. It is particularly important for them to be present on every stage – the more this person knows, the better for business. To meet the challenge, a Project Manager should have basic technical and product knowledge as well as few soft skills. Without them, it won’t be easy to efficiently coordinate the project. To list the benefits of having such a person in our team, we first need to consider who is the right person for this position.

The project management job is mostly based on cooperation with others, so above all, the ideal candidate must be communicative and open-minded. This character feature makes it possible to achieve efficient and transparent information exchange within the team. This person must be flexible and share all necessary information with the group. It is even better to tell something twice than never. If all tasks are clear, they will be done very quickly and precisely. From the developers’ perspective, nothing is more frustrating than a well-done functionality which is not what the client wants. All because of the lack of basic information that the PM didn’t get from the client. 

A second must-have feature is work organization. Skilled programmers, despite their engagement, don’t know what to do unless they are told. Because the PM is the key contact person for the client, this person knows which tasks have the highest priority and should be done first. To complete them, the manager divides them into smaller subtasks and assigns them to specific developer. That procedure makes the implementation process more efficient and flexible.

The one of the most important PM skill is listening. At first glance, it seems to be easy – we all have ears. But can everyone actively listen? It is crucial to follow the customer needs, ask for more info in case of any doubts. A good practice is to paraphrase what the client told us, just to make sure we are all on the same page. Otherwise, the customer will never be sure if the results have a chance of meeting the expectations.

product development

Benefits of hiring a Project Manager

The major goal is to support the customer in the field of organization and communication. PM’s presence must guarantee that the job is finished correctly and on time. This person is usually the customer’s single point of contact. The duties come down to managing the development process, arranging meetings, testing the quality of prepared functionalities, then reporting it all to the client. The customer doesn’t have to deal with the whole team to be up to date as it is possible to learn everything from one person. This is wonderfully comfortable and timesaving.

Despite being an ‘active member of the team’, the Project Manager is also a great observer. Watching how people work together, knowing their strengths and weaknesses, noticing areas to improve and making cooperation more efficient. As this person can spend time on such things, it is the PM’s duty to solve problems and prevent potential ones. To improve the developing process, the workflow or the management tool can be changed. As the PM is an expert in that field, the client and the developers don’t waste their time researching and testing all available tools to find the best one.

Another point that a good PM may help with is ‘filling the gaps in the project’, e.g., by being a tester. This person can be a quality controller before merging the new functionalities into the production environment. There are some projects where a proper tester is missing, so the PM may partially help with that matter. They can find the malfunction before the client does, what is also less stressful for the developers.

Moreover, a Project Manager might be the customer’s right hand. In case of absence at work, e.g., because of holidays or illness, the client may appoint a PM to do some extra duties, like attending meetings in which the PM is not usually involved in. When the customer returns, the work can move on uninterrupted. 

Projects that don’t need a PM

Some companies believe they don’t need such people. They claim they don’t need a manager at all! That works fine until unexpected issues arise. Let’s think about the following situation – there are 10 very skilled developers and the client who presented the goal. Everyone knows their duties. Suddenly, a problem occurs. As nobody in the team wants to take responsibility (e.g., due to the lack of time), that problem is going to be ignored, but it still exists and escalates in time, making people more frustrated and unmotivated to work. With the PM on board, that issue would be solved quickly, it could even be predicted and prevented.

It doesn’t matter how big the project is and how many people are involved in it. It is worth hiring the Project Manager. Even if there is a single developer assigned to the project – the PM may still give the person a hand, discuss possible ideas, help in testing. The PM is not only a support mechanism for the client but for the programmer as well. 

Cooperation with PMs

While cooperating with your Project Manager, there are some issues that are worth knowing.

- The Project Manager is not a decisive person when it comes to new functionalities. This is something the Product Owner does. The PM may advise in something at most.

- If the development team is ‘borrowed’ from the software house, it is worth considering hiring the PM from the same place. Because those people know each other well, they will feel greater psychological comfort and the cooperation might be more efficient.  

- Some customers must control everything – they are present at every meeting, daily, planning and they prefer to assign tasks to each developer themselves instead of letting the Project Manager to do that. It doesn't mean that the PM is redundant. This person may help the customer in another way, e.g., by accompanying all time, advising, remembering about important issues (something the customer might simply forget because of numerous duties). It’s a comfort for the client to have a person that recalls those issues and arranges meetings, what is often problematic and time-consuming.

Summary

To sum up the above-mentioned benefits, we can say that the Project Manager is a person worth hiring. It doesn’t matter how big the project is, because the PM’s presence is comfortable and time-saving for the customer – as we all know, “time is money”. While the PM takes care of project development, the client may devote their time to something else.

Read more:

Agile project management. When Scrum does not work?

CTO challenges – scale-up and growth of software products

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*The title graphic features Michael Scott from The Office series