This article is dedicated to the detractors who often suggest that PMs are redundant to an organization and to those who disagree with them and believe that PMs must be an integral part of every team. Whatever your own opinion is, you can at least agree that PMs carry out some work. What exactly they do and why they are important is the subject of my article.
Who makes estimates? Who creates project documentation? Who conducts risk management and the business aspects of a project? The PM. Before the project starts it is the manager who makes sure the project is viable and achievable by piecing together snippets of information from the client, developers and ideally some prospective users.
PMs coordinate the workflow and hence are best informed on the project so it is natural they speak on behalf of the team .What may seem counterintuitive is why they do not always let developers report to the customer directly. They claim: “I am responsible for this task, thus I should talk to the customer.” Well, the PM has an overview of the whole project, whereas the developer’s knowledge of the project is often limited to only their part.
There is a popular stereotype of a grumpy developer and a fickle customer who never reach an agreement and a superhero PM who comes to their rescue. There is no denying that it may occasionally be the case, but certainly not on a daily basis. No, the PM’s role is to facilitate the cooperation between the development team and the customer by keeping them on the same page and by reminding the developers of the customer’s queries and vice versa.
According to Laszlo Bock, the Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google, developers regard PMs as necessary evil or blessing in disguise, for they need somebody to justify their misdemeanour and settle any differences with the customer. If they are falling behind, it is the PM who will need to explain the delay; if the solution is faulty, it is the PM who will take the blame. Finally, if the project fails, it is the PM who will be held accountable and conversely, if the customer is delighted with the team’s work, it is the PM who will receive praise.
Supposedly PMs can even improve employee retention and push developers’ career growth provided they are the right ‘breed’ of people. Considering how many roles they fulfil, their contribution is indeed substantial.
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