Survival of Product Managers in Agile
In the fast moving technology era, IT world faces a huge amount of pressure when software development project teams move to agile methodologies and they leave project managers behind. The trained project managers then get confused as to what their new roles and responsibilities should be. Companies have realized that markets are changing at a rapid pace and what might have worked earlier might not work now due to demands of new technology adoption. Approaches that worked previously just don’t work anymore because we don’t have the leisure time – Think smart and act faster should be the motto of the software industries.
Why the Advancement to Agile Methodologies
Agile software development methodologies such as Extreme Programming (XP), Scrum, Crystal, Lean, etc., are becoming more prevalent in the industry. What is it about these approaches that have companies all over the world casting out their traditional plan-driven methods in favor of an agile process? And how do project managers fit into the new archetype, which favors self-managed teams?
Companies are moving to agile processes because the technology marketplace demands its suppliers to be highly responsive to change. In order to compete in the global economy, companies must move quickly to provide solutions to a client base that has more and more choices available to them. Agile approaches promise faster delivery of working code, higher quality and an engaged development team that can deliver on its commitments. Agile processes can provide a larger return on investment by decreasing the investment in inventory, decreasing operating expenses and increasing throughput.
In other words, by eliminating the time and money spent on designing an entire system – a design that may be outdated before it is implemented, a design that may have numerous pieces that are never even coded – and by eliminating the waste that accompanies heavy process, software development teams are able to provide rapid delivery of value to customers, resulting in greater profits. The transition to agile processes is a growing trend that will have lasting effects on the industry and the people involved. It’s a different way to work, one that requires greater communication and cooperation from its participants and greater leadership from its managers. In fact, the job titles in use today – manager, director – are illustrative of the traditional command-and-control approach that are now giving way to the new guidance and mentoring method of working with teams. It will be a challenge for many of these managers to release control, as they begin to make the transition to being leaders.
The goodness of Agile way includes:
- Ability to manage changing priorities
- Increase productivity
- Project visibility
Values of Agile:
- Individuals and interactions over Processes and tools
- Working software over Comprehensive documentation
- Customer collaboration over Contract negotiation
- Responding to change over Following a plan
Project Managers vs. Scrum Masters
If a company wants to go the Agile way, then scrum or a hybrid version of scrum would probably be a good way to start. But then, where did his project manager role go? A project can’t run well or succeed when the project manager can’t perform his duty or tasks. In Agile, one of the things we recognize is the concept of self-organizing teams. Project managers who are willing to make the change to servant leadership will find the journey exciting and rewarding. The principle is that teams organise and manage themselves. An agile team is directed from outside but manages and organised itself internally. This is traditionally the domain of a project manager.
But if the team is self-managing, what is the role of a project manager? This is one of the primary reasons why in Scrum they are called Scrum Masters, not project managers, because they do not manage the team. Although the project manager role could still be needed to co-ordinate where there are multiple teams, Agile looks at the team as the smallest unit and the project manager has no role in a team.
In a small project with few teams the need for overseeing the role of a project manager is also diminished. Even though project management is still needed and done by the team, there is no need for a specialized role for this. There isn’t much left for a project manager to do. All his responsibilities and tasks are already performed by the scrum team. Traditional project management is command and control – in Scrum, the leadership style is lead and collaborate. It’s a big jump for project managers and they need different skills to succeed in that sphere.