In organizations that are migrating to Agile, the question often come up what the role of project managers will be? Are they still needed? Yes they are, but their day-to-day work will change. They will be supporting (in stead of directing) the agile teams in delivering working software. Scrum can perfectly work together with a project management method, in fact, they support each other. Let’s see how that works out in practice.
I’ve worked with several organisations that introduced agile, and adapted their project management method to Agile, to match with the way that agile projects are managed. What follows are some of the changes that I have seen for the project managers.
First, agile projects often have multiple teams. It is the responsibility of the project to coördinate the interaction between teams. Often a scrum of scrums is used for the synchronization of the teams, while cost and manhours are monitored and reported at the overall project level. Also, project managers (or in some organizations line managers) can facilitate sharing of knowledge and experiences between the teams, for instance with Communties of Practice.
Also, agile includes the planning and day-to-day tracking of the activities, using the planning game and stand-up meetings. Keeping a detailed planning at the project level adds little value, therefore this is often not done anymore by project managers. They focus on the delivery planning, and ensure that agreements are made with the receiving parties.The teams and the product owner prioritize the user stories, which assures maximum contribution towards agreed upon deliveries.
Thirdly, the focus of the project manager changes. The biggest change that I often see is that they become more externally focused towards their stakeholders (project sponsor, product managers, customers, line managers, etc). They will however pick up and handle any impediments raised by a team regarding delivery schedules, money, working environment, skills, and training, etc. Project managers have to assure that their project members are able to do their work, effectively and efficiently.
These are just some of the changes that I have seen to project management when organizations implement agile, there will probably be more. The conclusion is that, with agile, there is still a need for project management, but the role of the project manager changes.Training for project managers can be useful, to understand the agile principles and how agile teams work, and to practice skills that are needed to facilitate agile teams.
Did you implement agile in your project organization? If so, what was the impact on your project managers? Please share your experiences by commenting on this article.