Have you ever worked on a project and not known when the due date of the next deliverable is? Have you been confused as to the number of resources you should be devoting to a particular feature? Or have you wondered if a client request is actually within the scope of a given project? These are all issues and pain points that a good project manager should be able to address and prevent. Project managers are more crucial than ever for the smooth running of your next product, especially when using Agile techniques.
What’s a Project Manager?
A project manager is an integral position on a digital production team. They’re usually tasked with creating technical requirements documents, planning sprints, managing timelines, coordinating budgets, and interfacing with the client and other stakeholders. Overall, the project manager is the point-person who keeps the project on track to ensure smooth execution and an on-time finish.
For this article, we’ll outline some of the main responsibilities of a project manager, which we’ll break down into four main categories:
Each of these areas contains its own set of tasks and responsibilities that, together, will help your project stay on track to success. After that we’ll see how much time is required to manage a team of developers and go over some of the consequences of not having a project manager, such as missing deadlines, having conflicting ideas about project scope, damage to budgets, and other issues.
Project Manager Responsibilities
The actual day-to-day tasks of project managers can vary greatly, but overall they share the same key set of responsibilities.
The PM is responsible for assembling a team to execute a project that they receive (likely from the business development team). Once they draw up a welcome package, estimate, roadmap and technical requirements document, which contains all of the basic information for the client, they organize the daily workflow of the team. The main milestones are typically broken into smaller issues, each containing an estimate of the work required, in a project management tool like Jira or any other relevant CRM system. For example, Attract Group is using our own custom-made one. This can also involve accounting for sick days of the team members with substitute resources when needed.
Once the work is underway, the PM is responsible for facilitating communication between the team and the client. One way to handle this is to schedule a series of team–client meetings so that previews of the work-in-progress can be shown and the client can be available to answer any questions the dev team may have. Another communication area is internal. When one part of the team is blocked on a certain issue, the project manager can communicate that to the necessary members involved in order to get the issue unblocked. In this sense, the PM keeps things moving.
When most of your team and/or clients work remotely or in distributed organizations, you’ll often encounter issues and questions around synchronization. When should client meetings take place? How often should you have sprint meetings? These questions can be particularly delicate when dealing across different time zones. PMs help to coordinate and synchronize teams, from small to large.
4 Project Flow and Progress Monitoring
The project manager functions as a kind of “glue” that holds together the different parts of a project, ensuring smooth flow between all of the different elements of your team. In this regard, the project manager sees the big picture and brings it to success through daily alignment with the team. A good PM will always know how much a project has spent versus the overall budget of the project. This is particularly important because the difference between these two figures in most cases is the actual profit for a project.
The PM is also responsible for preparing Sprint reports and doing efficiency analysis to ensure the client is aware of each development stage and the products meet their expectations and high standards.
An approximate breakdown of PM’s duties during a 1-week sprint
If you have doubts why you need a project manager in the team, here is an approximate breakdown of hours a PM spends while managing a sprint of a one-week “110-hour-long” sprint (10h Design + 40h Frontend+40h Backend+20h QA) to develop a new module to the existing application:
So, in order to manage a small team of 4 developers, you need on average 16 hours. It takes more when your team is growing or you are getting into an intense release stage.
Consequences of Not Having a Project Manager
Now that we’ve covered some of the main responsibilities of a project manager, we can ask: what would happen if you didn’t have a project manager? It’s possible perhaps to build an app or a web product without a project manager. But it’s highly advised to have one for the following reasons:
- Resources. Without a PM, a project will often not have the right team members. You need someone with an objective eye to bring the right players together.
- Deadlines. PMs can be a good mediator between eager clients and realistic developers. Without them, you can easily get unrealistic deadlines that make everyone unhappy.
- Standards. PMs also keep developers, IT, and DevOps working within standards. Don’t let your workplace become the Wild West. Stay clean and use best practices.
- Priorities and scope. PMs help developers stay on top of what’s important.
- Documentation and general awareness. Any changes to the scope need to be documented. A good PM will help ensure this.
- Up-to-date project status. Know where you are in the roadmap at all times.
- Bugs. PMs can help keep track of them.
- Budgets, morale, spirit, etc. In addition to making sure profit’s being made, PMs are the best cheerleaders for a project.
- Team drag. Realistically, someone will take the role of a PM if there is no official one. This will inevitably result in a drag on the team when someone has to step away from their main set of tasks. This may also lead to a lack of development alignment with the project’s mission and vision.
- Communication with developers. Project managers normally communicate with the development team on a daily basis answering their questions and making clarifications. Without them, there may be a lot of miscommunication.
We’ve seen then how indispensable a PM can be for your project. From budgets to timelines to communication and more—the role of the PM is not to be underestimated. Anyway, you will need a manager to keep things in the loop: either a hired one or you will have to invest your time to be the one or assign someone from the team, like a developer, which is not a good idea.
Have an idea for a project and have questions about project management? Tell us about it!