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why do we need a project manager

Occasionally, I am asked, "Why do I need a Project Manager on my project? Can't I just work directly with your Developer? "
The truth is, when someone is thinking only about the cost of a Project Manager, they are rarely, if ever thinking about the cost of not having one. So let's examine the cost to a project when this critical resource is not part of the equation: 1. Time - The delivery date of milestones, particularly the final launch date of a website or application must be closely managed. A Developer will be focused on the logic of your application, writing good code and the technology aspect of your solution. While the Developer needs to be accountable for hitting milestones, keeping track of dates and details in a project schedule should be handled by the Project Manager. This will allow the Developer to stay focused, while still being accountable to someone about the end date. Delivering late is rarely a luxury you or your organization can afford. 2. Scope - Your project should have an agreed upon feature set. If you make a feature request that is either outside the scope of the project or part of a "wish list", a good Developer might be inclined to say "yes". That's a good quality in a Developer. We like people with a "can do" attitude, right? However, the Developer might be thinking about how exciting and cool it would be to implement that new idea, without having any regard to the end delivery date or the budget. You, the client might not want someone to push back on a new feature, but you are more likely to get upset if a new feature is added at the expense of the delivery date or the budget. Someone needs to discuss the pros and cons of adding that new feature in a way that addresses the business needs in a comprehensive way. 3. Budget - It always comes down to money. Given enough time and enough money, we can accomplish anything right? But the reality is that funds are not unlimited. You need someone keeping an eye on how many hours (and therefore how many dollars) are being spent on specific tasks.

A Developer simply doesn't have the time to perform this task, as his or her main goal is to stay focused on the code. Don't you want to know how many hours are being burned on a weekly basis? Taking time to put together that type of report means, you guessed it--time taken away from writing good code. 4. Communication - The more time a Developer spends in meetings, writing emails, discussing project status etc. , the less time he or she is doing the actual job of a Developer--writing good code. (Okay, am I starting to sound like a broken record? ) It is also rare that a Developer is a master communicator, and when we find a Developer who has that rare combination of skills, he or she often gets promoted to be an Architect or, yes--a Project Manager! 5. Risk Management - Every project has risks. Schedule risks. Budget risks. Quality risks. Communication risks. Someone needs to identify those risks early and often, and come up with a risk mitigation strategy, and then communicate that strategy. Did I mention that Developers would rather be writing good code? 6. Documentation - Documentation is an important part of every project to a greater or lesser degree depending on the project. Developers sometimes also function as Architects, and they are responsible for documenting their solution either before or after the solution is built. Someone else, namely the Project Manager has to spend the time documenting meeting minutes, action items, project plans, etc. Otherwise your Developer will be saddled with this task, and that's clearly not the best use of a Developer's time. 7. Quality Assurance - Eventually, everything that gets developed will need to be tested. You will want a fresh set of eyes on the code to test and make sure that your project is not full of show stopping bugs. You not only don't want your Developer to be your QA Tester, you will want to make sure that the QA Tester is also held accountable to the Project Manger for the time, scope and budget.

So the next time you think about cutting corners by not investing in Project Management, think again. Rather than asking "Why do I need a Project Manager on my project? Can't I just work directly with your developer? ", better to ask, "What will the cost to me and my organization be if the project gets delivered late, is over budget or is riddled with quality issues? " Or worse yet, "What will happen if the project fails? " Bas de Baar discusses Project Leadership in a global and virtualб world through his popular blog and video podcast БThe Project Shrink. With over a decade spent in the trenches as software project manager he has a lot to talk about. Bas holds a masterБs degree in business informatics and lives with his wife in the Netherlands. Developers create code. Bakers make bread. Managers create documents. And meetings. And questions (Lots of those. ) But what about project managers? Why. Do. We. Need. PMs? Why do you need a Project Manager or PM? The short answer is this: The Project Manager either adds value (making stuff more efficient and effective) or reduces risk (without a project manager, bad things are going to happen). For one, the PM is taking care of the communication. He or she is the human shield between you and the development team, ensuring the team can work effective without too many interruptions. When a project contains multiple international teams all working together, the risk of something going bad because of lack of communication, synchronization or differences in understanding is present. By creating a schedule and making sure all parties are on the same page a Project Manager could reduce such a risk. They add value. They reduce risk. What is the most important skill to look for in a PM? Personally, I see most of the added value (or risk reduction) by means of communication. Soft skills, if you must insist on that ugly word. Ugly. But I am biased. To a guy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Or, perhaps more appropriate: to a Project Shrink every project problem is psychological.

I view projects as a set of social interactions. And because we all define problems, solutions and things in general from our belief system, I see most project events in terms of communication, culture and behavior. LetБs go back to what Project Management is all about. It is the management of scarce resources towards a defined goal using a temporary organizational structure. PMs allocate scarce resources in such a way that the project gets closer to the desired project goal; the end result you can call Бdone. Б They prioritize, monitor, shift and adjust time, people, equipment and all other things that are limited in supply. What is one of the potential pitfalls of having an external PM? PMs usually operate in a temporary organizational form, which means they either have no authority or limited authority or an ambiguous authority, even if they are an in-house employee. Either way, БauthorityБ is an issue. Projects typically do not operate under ideal circumstances. So, PMs have to motivate people, under time pressure, with uncertain conditions towards an uncertain goal. PMs motivate their project team to keep on trucking towards the next corner. With ever changing conditions, resources need to be reorganized and re-prioritized. Decisions are to be made continuously. You, the business owner, are what I call a stakeholder in the project being managed. As a stakeholder, you might change your mind about the desired outcome. Another problem can arise when the PM interpreted requirements differently than you intended. In other words, a problem arises when two people donБt understand each other correctly. Did I just hear anyone scream Бcommunication skillsБ? (See question number two. ) So why do you need a Project Manager? To make sure you and your remote team working on the project all understand each other. So you all know what БdoneБ looks like. And how to get there. Together.

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