What does an Agile Project Manager Really do?

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We, at Turlon & Associates, have just finishing a workshop with a client on defining the role of an Agile Project Manager within their framework and it got us thinking to what does an Agile Project Manager really do. It is a simple question to answer but one that does not always sit easily within the agile frameworks on show. It comes down to the simple fact of the level of engagement that the product has with the non-traditional side of the business. Let me give an example here, you are working an agile framework, working off the backlogs, the prioritisations, the scrums, the deliveries, the retrospectives, the DevOps and it is all going well. However there are other part of the organisation that still what to understand the delivery schedules, the budgets and most importantly the visibility of change on the product … this is where agile project management exists. In our view it is the bridge between the world of agile and the world of traditional reporting.

The Agile Project Manager is responsible for planning, leading, organising, and motivating agile project teams to achieve a high level of performance and quality in delivering agile projects that provide exceptional business value to users. This project management role may be responsible for managing several concurrent high visibility projects using agile methods in a fast-paced environment that may cross multiple business divisions. The agile project manager may play a number of different roles in actual practice:

  • At an enterprise level, leading and managing large, complex enterprise-level projects consisting of multiple Agile teams and/or requiring integration with other activities outside the scope of the Agile teams
  • At a team level, playing a consultative role to help put in place the appropriate people, process, and tools and coaching members of the team as needed to optimize the efficiency of the project team
  • In situations that require a hybrid Agile approach, using good judgment and skill to develop a project management approach that is suitable for planning and managing the effort to achieve the project goals within designated project constraints

You are correct in thinking that the agile project manager needs to move between the enterprise, the program and the actual project delivery. At all times the project manager is protecting the product from the ‘disturbance’ of the organisation.

At the project / product level, the agile project manager should understand and ultimately take responsibility for the following:

  • Project Planning and Management– Define project scope and schedule while focusing on regular and timely delivery of value; organize and lead project status and working meetings; prepare and distribute progress reports; manage risks and issues; correct deviations from plans; and perform delivery planning for assigned projects
  • Team Management– Assist in team development while holding teams accountable for their commitments, removing roadblocks to their work; leveraging organizational resources to improve capacity for project work; and mentoring and developing team members
  • Product Owner Support– Support the Product Owner in managing customer expectations for project deliverables, managing stakeholder communications, and helping to implement an effective system of project governance
  • Process Management and Improvement– Define and manage a well-defined project management process and champion ongoing process improvement initiatives to implement best practices for Agile Project Management
  • Team building– promote empowerment of the team, ensure that each team member is fully engaged in the project and making a meaningful contribution, and encourage a sustainable pace with high-levels of quality for the team

To put some of this in context, it is also worthwhile to determine and contrast from the product owner / managers role which includes:

  • Collaborate with product architect and product marketing teams to translate business requirements into user stories for the development teams to implement
  • Develop and maintain an appropriately prioritized backlog of user stories for implementation
  • Work with project managers and technical leads to determine scope and priorities for product development cycles
  • Work with development teams to ensure that they understand the vision for the product and are designing great features for our partners
  • Develop appropriately detailed specifications for product features so that they are clearly understood by the development teams
  • Inspire and motivate the development teams to deliver innovative and exciting solutions with an appropriate sense of urgency
  • Act as an ambassador for the product internally and externally, and as the primary technical contact for queries related to the product
  • Work with key stakeholders across the companyto ensure successful product releases

The last thing, we want to see in any agile method is crossover between these two roles. Enjoy the journey.

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