Over the years, I've had discussions with software developers who question the need for project management. I've heard everything from "The developers are the only ones who really know what's needed anyway!" to "All the project managers do is slow things down and add unnecessary bureaucracy!" to "Why can't the the developers just work with the customer to give them what they need and avoid the middleman?"
The fact is, given the right developer and a fairly isolated project, all of these are valid statements. But many projects are much more complex than that. They involve multiple stakeholders with conflicting needs, offshore resources, multiple vendors, complex interrelationships with other activities and departments, and more. They frequently involve managing all of this against budget and schedule constraints.
Leading, facilitating, and managing all of these elements is where a good project manager can help. An effective project manager removes
barriers for a team rather than adding
barriers. Any activities that may appear like "nuisance work" to technicians, such as reporting time or percent complete against milestones, are often necessary to meet the project's schedule or budget constraints.
A good project manager will work with developers to determine the appropriate project approach, depending on the constraints and the level of uncertainty involved. Perhaps an agile approach is warranted, with learnings applied incrementally. Perhaps piecemeal deliverables can be achieved for quick wins and earlier value. A good project manager will also prepare management reports, conduct presentations, and deal with vendor issues.
Most of all, a good project manager will communicate to all parties throughout the project. Although some developers do indeed have the expertise to do all this, it distracts from the work they need to do.
This is not just a nuance of the software industry. The same holds true in any industry where technical or subject matter experts question the need for project management. Project management is a completely different skill set, necessarily so. It's geared toward leading people to achieve objectives. An organization can of course put the project manager in a better position to be successful by providing adequate tools, general principles, and minimal bureaucracy.
The article below offers clear and simple evidence of the importance of project management. It begins with the results of a 1999 study that showed that the number one reason companies stopped working with Internet design firms was not about their lack of creativity or high costs---it was about their inability to effectively manage a project.
Here's the article...MB Journal Article Archives
Labels: agile, business-results, course, customer, it-project, preparation, principles, project-management-relevance, project-manager, project-teams, results, software