If you’re working for a company where the PM is the boss, run. You’re not going to work in a more toxic environment than that. Cross if off your career list and never reflect back on it.
The Project Manager should not be viewed as the boss in a software development team. Software Development teams are functional teams with each person serving a specific role.
The project manager manages the project, which means that it’s their responsibility to keep the project on track. What else do Project Managers do?
They support developers when they need information from the client. Looking at the project plan, the project manager acquires all of the necessary credentials from the client before work is started and those credentials are needed.
Good Project Managers are great enablers. They celebrate success with the developers.
Any form of client communication is done through the Project Manager. The PM has developed a relationship with both sides and can help smooth out the language since both sides can be brutal.
There’s also a level of consistency. This is expected by the client and outlined during the kickoff call. Developers do not have the time required to communicate with the client efficiently.
The project plan should be fluid. Dates change for numerous reasons, capacity being one of those. Understanding when developers have time off and shifting priorities is a skill that experienced PM’s have mastered. Capacity is probably the most difficult concept for PM’s to grasp.
If nobody keeps track of the budget, you’re going to go over each time. Developers are perfectionists. Questioning them on why a task took 10 hours versus the estimated 1 hour needs to be done regularly. Hopefully a culture is built around asking questions so if a developer is stuck on a problem, they know that they can ask for help after 10–15 minutes of attempting to solve it themselves. The more time the developer wastes, the less money the company makes.
Master of the SOW
The Project Manager should know the SOW inside and out. Clients will push to get hundreds of additional features built free of charge if they can get away with it.
Understanding the SOW means that the Project Manager can communicate with the client effectively during calls and can state whether the item was in the SOW or whether it’s a new feature request.
How Can the PM Appear as the Boss?
Project Managers are the first ones to be questioned when a project goes off track and dates start to be missed. It’s up to the Project Manager to constantly verify that the project is going to hit specific dates. When the project starts falling behind, the PM will start lighting a fire in order to get it back on track. That’s usually achieved with an aggressive status update request strategy. This increased request for tasks to get done can appear bossy.
When Should You Run?
When the Project Manager actually becomes the boss. Not only are they keeping the project on track, they can actually reprimand members of the team.
I’ve personally been in teams where the project manager is involved from the hiring to the firing. Although it’s common in other industries, that’s not the norm in software development.
Many let the power run to their heads and will demand that developers come up with project plans, communicate with the client, and gather additional requirements, on top of doing their own work. They sit back and “manage.”
If you’re in an environment like this, I’m here to tell you that it’s actually greener on the other side. Run for the pasture.
Project Managers manage projects. Development Managers manage people.