Clients who want to outsource their IT needs always wonder how much they will have to be involved in the entire process. They worry they will have to oversee the team and monitor their every step. In a professional software agency, this would never be the case. The client is an integral part of the collaboration, but they don’t directly manage the project. There’s a dedicated person to do that.
A project manager doesn’t write code and is not responsible for delivering the solution. However, their role is essential for the successful production and release of a software product. Why? That’s what we’re going to explain in this article. Our goal is to showcase why having a project manager provides numerous benefits for the product owner. It also discusses the best PM frameworks and practices.
Who is a project manager?
In software companies, project managers are professionals who oversee specific projects from the very beginning to the moment of completion. Their duties include numerous tasks. For example: coordinating the team’s efforts, ensuring everything is executed on time, within budget, and with the desired level of quality, communicating with the client, informing about potential challenges, and finding solutions to problems that occur. It’s a role that can be found across a variety of industries, not only IT. That’s because their presence can’t be underestimated.
What does a project manager do?
Project managers are highly skilled people who have to be flexible, well-organized, and able to react to all kinds of unexpected situations. Their responsibilities might vary depending on the project’s scope and complexity. Here’s a list of core things they have to take care of when working with the client and the team:
- Create project plans and schedules
- Define project objectives and deliverables
- Manage the budget proposed by the client
- Prepare and assign tasks to team members
- Track project progress and make adjustments as needed
- Communicate with stakeholders and inform them about every significant detail
- Ensure that scheduled meetings happen according to their agendas
- Manage risks and issues that arise during the project
- Ensure that the project meets all relevant quality standards and the client’s requirements
- Perform evaluation after every stage of the project and also when it’s finished
This list could probably be much longer, but we believe the picture is clear. Since every software development project has all these to-dos to be taken care of, it’s impossible to assume they don’t require a competent management specialist.
What skills should a good project manager have?
You can probably tell by now that being a project manager is not a job for anyone. Such people should have a particular skill set and personality traits that will help them make the right decisions, work under pressure, and take care of numerous matters at once.
Check out the following list to see what are the perfect traits of a great PM:
- Leadership: A project manager should be able to inspire and motivate their team. Their co-workers have to respect them, so it’s good if they lead by example and help everyone when it’s needed.
- Communication: Being an excellent communicator, both verbally and in writing, is a must for a project manager. They have to be able to explain complex concepts clearly and concisely, no matter which party they’re talking to.
- Time management: The ability to prioritize tasks while keeping in mind everyone’s schedule is useful in this position. PMs always have to remember about meetings, deadlines, and important milestones.
- Calculations: Project managers should always be on top of the current expenses. They should be able to predict how many resources will be needed and plan everything to meet the estimated budget.
They should also have the following:
- Crisis management skills: The best project managers are the ones who can identify potential risks before they occur. Moreover, even if something happens, they have to react fast and always have a strategy to conquer a challenge.
- Stress resistance: Since project managers have so much stuff to take care of, they should be able to handle stress and work well even when something unexpected happens. It’s an eventful job full of surprises, so it’s not for people who get overwhelmed easily.
- Good people skills: Team members and clients are all different people and their reactions or demands might clash during some stages of the project. A PM has to be able to meet everyone’s needs and expectations without compromising other goals of the collaboration. Sometimes they even have to be mediators.
- Technical expertise: A project manager should know a thing or two about technologies used in a specific project. They don’t have to know how to code, but they should be able to understand why some technologies require more time or bigger resources. Being able to explain the basic technicalities to the client is also welcome.
Project management in software development
The software development process is quite complex and involves numerous stages. A project manager should be engaged from the beginning until the release and post-project maintenance. During planning sessions, UX/UI design, development, testing, and deployment, a PM is always on top of the project’s progress. They know exactly what tasks are taken care of and ensure that all the deliverables are completed before the team moves forward.
To do that, they usually harness specific project management frameworks. That’s why many software agencies hire project managers with extensive knowledge of a preferred methodology. Each has its unique approach to running software projects and emphasizes different aspects of the process. Here are the most popular ones:
One of the most cherished project management methodologies in software development is Agile. It emphasizes flexibility and collaboration. The main objective is to deliver value to the end customer. Projects led in Agile are divided into short iterations, typically one to four weeks long. During them, the team works on a specific set of tasks. Another crucial element of Agile are regular meetings to review progress, make adjustments, and plan the next iterations. The main benefit of Agile is its high adaptability which allows teams to adjust their priorities based on client feedback and evolving requirements. It’s a great method for projects with changing scopes.
Agile is an umbrella term for many frameworks that fall into its group. It’s a style of thinking about project management. While many companies are fine with just using the general Agile approach, most of the providers bet on specific frameworks. The top one is Scrum. It’s based on very short iterations called sprints and a backlog of tasks prepared during the initial stages of the project. The meetings are frequent. Scrum’s staple meeting is a daily stand-up which, as the name states, happens every day. It takes a few minutes and every team member shares their current progress, roadblocks, and work plan for the day. After each sprint, the Scrum Master (a role separate from PM) organizes a retrospective meeting to sum it up, introduce improvements, and plan the next iteration.
Waterfall is often placed in opposition to Agile and Scrum. That’s because it presents a completely different way of working on software products. It focuses on sequential, linear progress which makes it less flexible. The project is divided into distinct stages that have to be completed one by one before moving to the next phase. Waterfall is highly structured, has well-defined deliverables, and always operates on a clear plan for the entire production process. It’s a great framework for companies that care about extensive documentation – it’s one of the essential elements in Waterfall. Many software agencies mix Agile with Waterfall to achieve the best levels of flexibility and structure.
A highly visual method of running projects is called Kanban. The name comes from the kanban board, the main tool to organize the workflow, observe progress, and detect potential issues. It can be created in an analog or a digital form, but its structure is always similar. There are columns that represent certain stages in the project. The simplest board includes the following columns: backlog, to-do, in progress, to test, to discuss, and done. However, many software companies reshape the traditional kanban board to meet the needs of the projects they work on. Tasks are placed in columns as cards and the team knows exactly what each person should do. When a task is completed, it’s moved to the next stage. Kanban is also quite flexible, as the cards can be moved when it’s necessary for the project’s success. It can also be mixed with Agile.
Lean is a methodology that has two main principles: minimizing waste and maximizing value. That’s why it focuses on identifying and eliminating any activities or processes that are wasting time and resources without providing visible, valuable results. Sustainability, efficiency, and predictability are the main words that describe Lean project management. The concept has its roots in manufacturing and was perfected by Toyota in the 20th century when the company wanted to eliminate as much waste as possible while still producing high-quality cars. It’s a great framework for companies and teams that like organization, continuous improvement, and a systematic approach to challenges.
Extreme programming (XP)
Another subset of Agile is Extreme programming, which is highly adaptable to rapidly changing project conditions and requirements. Its values include simplicity, communication, feedback, respect, and courage to discuss every issue that occurs within the project. Every team that uses XP goes through several phases to ensure all tasks are completed the right way. This methodology is also fond of techniques like pair programming, code review, continuous delivery, and test-driven approach. Although it’s quite adaptable, guidelines should be followed to achieve results in tune with XP.
Why are project managers essential for successful software solutions?
Project management is critical in software development. Thanks to it, the team stays on track and the goals are met. PMs are responsible for overseeing the entire process from planning to deployment. They ensure the team works on the right tasks and completes them within the estimated budget and deadline.
You probably wonder why the team itself can’t be responsible for all that. Every group of people has a different dynamic and each member offers different skills. It’s impossible to expect that they will always know what’s going on in the project and be able to handle all the organizational tasks. It’s also a matter of time. Developers are exquisite at writing code and creating high-quality technological solutions. However, if they had to take over the duties of project managers, they would spend a lot of time talking to clients, allocating tasks, and synchronizing their work with teammates. With PM on board, all these things are done simultaneously while the devs program.
We should underline the importance of communication in software projects. Effectiveness in that area is one of the most critical skills of a project manager. Being in touch with everyone involved with the project to make sure they are on the same page, understand their role, and have the information they need to do their jobs is necessary to produce the expected results. Well-executed communication also helps with teamwork by building trust between team members and stakeholders. Without it, a project can quickly become chaotic and disorganized, leading to missed deadlines, increased costs, and lower-quality deliverables. The project manager’s duty is to help everyone be in touch without obstacles and solve potential miscommunications.
Benefits of having a project manager in a software project
Having a project manager on a software development project ensures that the project is executed efficiently, effectively, and successfully. PMs bring valuable skills and expertise to the table. Here’s a list of the most prominent benefits for the product owner and the team involved in a software development project:
Improved planning and execution
A project manager’s primary responsibility is to organize and manage all aspects of the project. They work closely with all other involved parties to create a plan with timelines, deliverables, and milestones. Then, they ensure that their strategy is executed the right way. Along the way, they identify potential roadblocks and prepare reaction plans to keep the project on track. If there’s a need to adjust the plan to the changing project scope, it’s also the PM’s duty. Overall, they should always know what’s going on and make sure everyone is doing what they’re supposed to.
Enhanced communication and collaboration
As we mentioned above, communication is crucial to achieving better results, keeping the team’s morale high, and reacting fast to any unexpected events. A project manager acts as an intermediary between the team and stakeholders. They make sure that everyone is aware of project goals, timelines, and progress. They also facilitate communication between team members and help resolve conflicts, so everyone is working together towards a common goal.
Risk management and mitigation
Every software project carries some level of risk. It’s impossible to predict all potential problems or challenges to prevent them before they occur. That’s why a project manager should be able to determine what are the potential risks. Then, they prepare strategies to avoid them or at least be able to handle their consequences. PMs always closely monitor their project. They analyze every detail and look for ways to optimize the aspects that might negatively impact productivity, accuracy, or delivery time.
Better quality control and assurance
Each software solution should be built according to best practices, industry standards, market needs, legal regulations, and the brand’s requirements. Then it should be thoroughly tested to make sure it meets all of these points and the client’s demands. A project manager looks after the software development process to be certain that quality is present in every phase. They establish quality metrics and work with the team to develop testing strategies. This way, they ensure the software meets the customer’s needs.
Cost and time management
Software projects can be complex and expensive. They usually involve several people who know various technologies. To deliver a high-quality solution, they have to spend hours on coding, improving, testing, designing, and other activities. That can consume a lot of the budget. Thus, PMs also spend a large chunk of their time analyzing potential cost-saving measures. Their main duty though is to make sure the project stays within budget. Another resource they have to manage is time. Keeping up with deadlines is crucial to delivering a complete solution at the right moment. PMs plan concrete timeframes and support their teams in completing all tasks within them.
Project management challenges
As a software agency that has been working with global clients for more than 15 years, we perfectly understand the obstacles that project managers face daily. Without PMs, delivering apps on time, within budget, and according to expectations would be much harder. What do they have to deal with?
- Managing changing requirements: Software projects can evolve every day due to new market conditions, suddenly emerging trends, and other reasons. PMs have to adapt projects quickly to make sure they correspond with the ongoing situation.
- Communication breakdowns: Conflicts and misunderstandings are the problems that project managers have to handle regularly. Not every team member will be able to agree with others, but the PM always has to take care of it.
- Scope revolutions: Sometimes project requirements expand beyond the original scope. Other times some deliverables stop being relevant. In all cases, project managers have to keep the team’s work on the right track, even if the conditions change. Without that, the final result will not be accepted.
- Resource allocation: Project managers must ensure that team members are allocated efficiently to tasks that match their skills. They also have to evaluate which positions in the backlog require priority care and which ones can wait.
How project managers can conquer challenges?
Of course, PMs have to face a multitude of difficult situations and problems. The ones mentioned above are the most common. If these challenges aren’t addressed properly, they can jeopardize the success of a software project. From overspending the budget to delayed time-to-market, it’s important to prevent any malfunctions at all costs. Of course, it’s impossible to get rid of all the potential issues, so there should always be a backup plan when something happens. Effective project management can mitigate problems, ensuring that a software solution is delivered according to expectations or even beyond them.
What’s our advice on fighting potential obstacles?
Project management frameworks
The first recommendation we want to give is to always use a project management methodology. Frameworks are usually picked by the software agency that hires a PM, but not following them at all is a recipe for disaster. Agile methods are particularly appreciated because they’re adjusted specifically to software development projects. In environments where requirements often change and flexibility is crucial, the iterative approach focused on communication, teamwork, and quality is the best way to ensure client satisfaction.
Planning and organization
Another way to conquer potential obstacles is good planning and organization. Everything can be strategized beforehand and executed according to the agenda. From a project’s backlog to resources, it’s important to know exactly what happens when, why it’s done a certain way, who is responsible for it, and what they should deliver. Using dedicated tools like Jira, Trello, Asana, or any other app implemented in PM’s company is a must to stay on the right track and have everything under control.
Status updates and meetings
Regular status updates and team meetings are necessary for concise communication and being updated about the project. PMs usually initiate, plan, and host them. When they know exactly what’s going on, it’s easier to foresee potential issues before they even occur. A project manager should also put an effort to engage the product owner and other stakeholders. Why? Because their insights are crucial to understanding the client’s industry, business, target market, and competitors. Their availability is essential when the team wants to solve some dilemma or is not sure which direction to follow.
As you can see, there’s a lot to unpack when it comes to project management in software development. Frameworks, methodologies, useful skills, and knowledge – a PM is someone with a specific personality, work ethic, and approach to people. We hope this article erased any doubts when it comes to investing in a team led by an experienced project manager.
Clients who want to outsource their IT needs should always ask about PMs because these are the people they will talk to most during the course of the project. Our advice is to get in touch with them right away and ask all the questions you might have in mind to learn about their collaboration style, approach to specific issues, and overall vibe.
If you’re looking for an experienced partner who can provide an entire team of specialists (including a dedicated PM) for your next software or AI project, you’re in the right place. G-Group.dev can build a robust digital product for your company – contact us and let’s talk. We will manage your project and take care of everything to make sure your company succeeds with its new solution.