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Do we need Project Managers in Agile?

There are many confusions in the understanding of agile as a thought process. Things are changing as organizations are transitioning towards agile from traditional project management. The way work is executed differs in the Agile environment. With this transition, there are many questions which bother. One such question is “do we need Project Managers” in Agile world? One step more than this is what will happen to Project Managers in the market? Will they lose their job? In this article, we shall touch upon on these points.

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What do Project Managers do?

I know this is a stupid question but to answer the bigger subject, we need to have a look at the fact that what does Project Manager do?

Responsibilities of Project Managers

There is nothing new in this to understand that a Project Manager does all this and these are all the components of overall project management. Rather an overall scope of Project management has many other facets also like Procurement management, Program management, portfolio management and the list goes on.

The important point to note is, Project Management will not obsolete from projects as all these activities/tasks have to be done but the way we do these tasks has changed with the new ways of doing work. On a similar note, Project Manager’s will not get obsolete in any way but the roles & responsibilities has been changed. We shall discuss in detail how it has changed in agile next

Does agile need Project Manager?

What is agile? Is it a Project/Process which will have roles?

“Agile is basically an approach which is driven by the values and principles under it.”

 As mentioned above, Agile in itself doesn’t define anything but just give a set of values and principles. Whichever framework use these values and principles is agile.

No approach defines the roles but yes the frameworks over the approach to defining the roles and it differs from framework to framework, that’s why in agile roles differ for the scrum, XP, Kanban, Lean etc.

Another very important point which summarizes this section in a beautiful manner is

“Agile talks more at the execution level. Anything outside it needs Project Management”

Project management is required in everything and agile doesn’t stop it. However, the important point to understand is Project Management, at execution level will be agile based and there won’t be central control kind of Project Manager as in the traditional way of working.

We all are aware of Planning Onion in agile and that explains in itself where Project Management and Project Managers are required in agile

Planning Onion in Agile                       

Project Management outside agile execution

This planning onion has multiple layers and people who have worked in agile will appreciate and agree with that agile focuses majorly on last three layers i.e. daily, iteration and Release level planning. How about other layers? All projects have to go through all these layers and organizations has to manage all these layers of planning and management.

Anything over these three is not focused inside agile i.e. it’s basically out of the scope of execution and we as an agile team don’t want the team to worry about the whole world and divert its concentration. Therefore one fact is, all rest of the layers need project Management and for that reasons Project Managers are needed irrespective of agile or non-agile way of working

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Project Management inside agile execution

Now coming to the second dimension, inside these three layers of planning onion, do we really don’t want Project Managers and can live without it? Who will take care of all the multi-dimensional things a project manager does traditionally at execution level? After all success and failure of projects is decided at the execution level only

Here comes the second thought with which we started our discussion i.e. Project Management is still there but it’s distributed among the roles defined by the agile framework.

Let’s take an example of Scrum as the scrum is the most famous flavor of agile.

 Scrum

 

If we see, the activities of project manager or Project Management is distributed across three roles of Scrum i.e. Product Owner, Scrum Master & Development team. This is true across frameworks and there are certain agile forms in which we have a properly defined Project Manager also as role e.g. Extreme Programming (XP).

In XP, Project managers are like a leader who helps in the teamwork with the organization. This role coach leadership and basically non-programming practices. In a comparison with traditional project managers, functional managers generally cope up with this role very well. In XP, the difference in this role is, generally, Project Manager has technical skills as well whereas most project managers lack the technical expertise to coach XP’s programming practices.

Above are just two examples to highlight that Project Management is there and will there in agile and need is to see where its laying and how its distributed across roles.

Conclusion

Project Management was there, is there and will be there because projects need management at multiple levels in an organization. Even if we look at the execution level where agile is focused more, the project management, Project managers, and all the activities are there. There is no way to eliminate Project Managers and Project management from projects but yes, for the benefits we get from agile, we change the way we do these activities and look at these activities.

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About Dharmalingam N

Dharmalingam.N holds a master degree in Business Administration and writes on a wide range of topics ranging from technology to business analysis. He has a background in Relationship Management. Some of the topics he has written about and that have been published include; project management, business analysis and customer engagement.
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