Project Manager Role in Agile: Importance and Key Tasks

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Julia Sakovich , Author at Geomotiv
Reviewed by Sergey Lobko-Lobanovsky, CEO at Geomotiv
Published: Sep 1, 2023

Every position on a software development team is associated with a row of particular responsibilities and tasks that should be fulfilled to let the team successfully build the desired solution. But while the duties of developers and UI/UX designers are evident to a broad audience, the role of a project manager may seem somewhat mysterious. 

Let’s see what is so special about the project manager position in Agile and discover some insights from our experience working as an Agile offshore software development company.

And before we proceed to the discussion of all the chosen points, we’d like to highlight that we will focus precisely on the project manager roles and responsibilities in Agile. In other approaches to the development process organization, this specialist's role may significantly differ. That’s why if you rely on another project management methodology, you must consider all these questions from another perspective.

What is a Project Manager in Agile?

When you are establishing cooperation with an offshore software development agency or assembling your own project team, you need to define the number and positions of specialists who will work on creating your solution. And based on the real cases from our practice, nobody has doubts about hiring software developers with different skills. Still, there can be a lot of questions about the role of a project manager in Agile Scrum.

project manager responsibilities in agile scrum

The project manager role in Agile is considered a key one. Namely, this expert will be in charge of managing the whole lifecycle of the development project. This specialist will deeply know all the details about the project from the planning stage to the release of a final product. The responsibilities of a project manager also cover setting timelines, project scope definition, allocating resources, and many other questions.

Sometimes our clients ask us whether developers can’t fulfill all these tasks. So, theoretically, it can be possible. But thanks to working with a project manager in Agile, every team member can focus on their tasks directly. At the same time, their entire workflow will be organized, tracked, and guided by a person with relevant expertise.

In other words, project managers must build a connection between stakeholders and the team, efficiently set the guidelines, and help seamlessly achieve the project goals.

But are you sure you know how to organize the work of such a team most efficiently? We’ve shared a row of practical tips on our blog.

Read the article now!

Project Manager Responsibilities in Agile

Now we offer you to consider the typical tasks of a project manager in Agile and to find an answer to the question: “What is the role of a project manager in controlling an Agile project?” (Spoiler: It’s a very important one).

  • Creating and maintaining a project vision. Here we could have used the word “plan,” which is also true. Without any doubt, any project has its plan, but in the context of Agile methodology, we can’t talk about strict planning for the whole project from the beginning.
  • Managing risks. A project manager should be aware of all the risks related to the project realization and have ideas to help mitigate them. 
  • Coordinating budget and resource allocation. The fact that Agile presupposes great flexibility doesn’t mean that nobody controls the use of money or other resources. In any case, there are some frames. And regardless of all the changes, it is necessary to follow the existing limits. A PM is a person who should do it.
  • Ensuring compliance with the Agile principles. Every project manager in Agile should know and deeply understand the principles of this methodology. And the task of this specialist will be to make them clear to all team members and to explain and demonstrate how these principles can be applied to real projects.
project manager responsibilities in agile software development
  • Working with stakeholders. A PM needs to communicate with stakeholders to get all the recent updates regarding their business needs, expectations, and requirements. All the received information should be made known to team members.
  • Tracking the project realization progress. A project manager should always fully understand the progress made and the volume of work to be done. It means that this specialist should monitor the process of the team’s moving from point A to point B (from the initiation phase to the launch of the ready solution). 
  • Identifying blockers. If something goes wrong, it is crucial to define its reasons. When it is done, it is required to take measures that will help to eliminate them. And these are the tasks of a project manager.
  • Conducting daily meetings, retrospectives, and sprint planning. Such sessions aim to keep the project on track and let the team know everything happening on the project. A PM should have analytical skills that will allow them to process a lot of data and information from different sources and summarize everything to be clear to every team member. Moreover, such a meeting should take little time. Otherwise, the team won’t have enough time to fulfill all assigned tasks. That’s why leading these meetings is an important skill, and project managers should develop it.
  • Delivering high-quality software. Though a project manager doesn’t directly participate in coding or creating user interfaces, this specialist bears a considerable part of the common team’s responsibility for delivering the best results. This person needs to listen to the opinion of stakeholders, explain all the requirements to the team, plan iterations, track the progress, and ensure that the final result will correspond to the set goals.

All the above points are the core Agile project manager roles and responsibilities. Sometimes, they differ depending on your project's specificity and business needs. You can always discuss all the changes directly with your PM to introduce them.

A Traditional Project Manager vs an Agile PM

For those companies who have worked only with traditional Waterfall software development projects that presuppose strict planning, it is surprising to see the importance of the project manager role in Agile and the creativity and flexibility that it includes. The significance of this position is explained by the specificity of this project model and the principles that it is based on.

In Agile, one of the most valuable things is continuous interaction between teams that work on the project and stakeholders. This communication is the foundation for improving and adjusting the project’s requirements to the evolving business needs and conditions.

project manager responsibilities in agile  vs waterfall

Given these principles, it is impossible to create a single plan at the initial stage of the project realization and just follow all the described steps to reach the final goals. Agile presupposes regular changes and updates, defining goals for each iteration, and great flexibility. With proper management, the whole process can be smooth, and the chances of successfully delivering the desired solution will constantly decrease with each iteration.

In the Waterfall model, the role of a project manager also can’t be underestimated but has a slightly different specificity. It is a linear methodology. It means the development team can’t move to the next project phase before completing the previous one. And that is one of the main differences between this traditional approach and Agile, which encourages carrying out several stages in parallel.

In both cases, a project manager will be responsible for the conditions of the project realization, as well as the value and quality of the final product. But the critical difference is that a PM on Waterfall projects needs to track the process of moving to the set goals under the set timeframes and strict plan, while in Agile, there are no precise milestones and roadmaps that are defined at the planning stage. Everything can change.

PMs on Waterfall projectsPMs on Agile projects
Set precise objectivesDefine the entire vision of the project
Launch the project realization following
the created plan
Help to adjust and adapt all the processes
to the evolving conditions
Try to keep the project realization
within the set frames
Support the project realization amid the
continuously changing requirements

Let’s try to summarize the core points mentioned in the table above.

In the Waterfall methodology, project managers must create strict plans and frames, assign tasks, and allocate resources to keep the team within the roadmap. And Agile requires staying as flexible as possible. It means that PMs must be ready to react to any updates and find the best approaches to deal with the recently appeared tasks. But at the same time, regardless of all the changes, project managers should guide their team to deliver the final solution that will bring the highest value to all stakeholders.

After looking at all these differences, you may have logical questions about the chances for one person to work as a PM on Agile and Waterfall projects. It is possible, like one developer, to work with several programming languages. But in both cases, it will be required to learn the peculiarities of each approach, study and understand the philosophy of each methodology, and get familiarized with project management tools that will facilitate many routine tasks.

We can become your best IT partner with our outstanding expertise in working with projects of any type and complexity.

Skills That an Agile Project Manager Should Have

When talking about any modern specialist, we always start with general skills like coping with the assigned tasks in time, expressing their opinion without offending other people, etc. Though all these things are essential for everyone, let’s be more precise. What specific skills are required from a person to successfully cope with the role of project manager in an Agile environment?

project manager responsibilities in agile, its importance and skills
  • Leadership skills. A project manager in Agile should lead the team. That’s why it is required to understand the team and to find different approaches to motivating and engaging different people.
  • Time management. All iterations have fixed time frames (2-4 weeks), and a project manager should ensure that all the planned tasks can be fulfilled within a sprint without delays.
  • Collaboration skills. The typical team’s success greatly depends on these PMs’ skills. This person should be able to cooperate with different groups and stakeholders and organize efficient cooperation within the team.
  • Organizational skills. A PM should know how to assign tasks in the right way, how to use resources, how to hold regular meetings, and how to do many other things that will ensure comfortable conditions for all the involved parties.
  • Problem-solving skills. A project manager should be ready for all situations, including those difficult to predict. For a PM, reacting quickly and finding solutions that may be obscure to others is essential.
  • Analytical skills. A PM needs to analyze and make conclusions based on such information. A project manager must be able to correlate facts, compare requirements, and deliver a summary of all the received insights.
  • Flexibility and creativity. Flexibility is relevant to every step and stage of an Agile project, meaning a team should be well-prepared for it. And namely a project manager should lead them in this journey. PMs should demonstrate great adaptability and creativity, especially when it comes to the introduction of new changes.

Summary: What is the Role of Project Manager in Agile?

When you already know the critical tasks of a project manager in Agile and have a general understanding of the importance of such skills for your successful project realization, let us highlight the benefits of having a PM on your team. 

A project manager in Agile is a person who will be responsible for applying all the core principles and values of this methodology to the development lifecycle. In other words, by having a good PM by your side, you will get:

  • Flexibility. The Agile methodology itself is focused on flexibility, and a PM is a person who will be responsible for its support and efficiency. You can enjoy this flexibility's advantages only when it is appropriately managed. And that’s exactly what such a specialist will do.
  • Cost and time savings. Those teams that ignore the need to work with a project manager in Agile will need to solve many organizational questions on their own. It means developers must interact with stakeholders directly, answer all the messages, and make many calls. All these tasks can be very time-consuming, especially if developers need to write code and perform other tech-related functions in parallel. As a result, the time required for the software creation and the quality of the final solution may need to improve. All this can lead to financial losses and other unpleasant consequences. But a project manager won’t let it happen.
  • Collaboration. As we’ve already highlighted, dealing with coding tasks and staying responsible for communication with all other teams and stakeholders is quite challenging. But a project manager will work directly on establishing and maintaining high-quality and result-oriented collaboration between all parties involved.
  • Reduced risks. The better communication is organized, the more valuable insights the development team will get from customers. Thanks to receiving feedback after each iteration and the possibility of implementing changes during the next sprint, development teams can minimize risks related to going in the wrong direction. But namely, a project manager helps to work with the received feedback and the required changes in the most feasible way.
  • Higher customer satisfaction. This benefit can be viewed as a consequence of all those already mentioned. When the work on the project is smartly organized, when all the changes are introduced as soon as possible, and when all the processes are correctly adjusted to the continuously evolving conditions, the final result will fully meet the expectations of stakeholders (and even go beyond them). And a PM is one of the key persons responsible for the typical project success and customer satisfaction.

Of course, to ensure you will leverage all these advantages, you need to cooperate with a professional specialist with all the relevant knowledge and practical experience in working on different projects. But when you choose Geomotiv as your software development partner, you can be confident in the highest professionalism of all our experts, including project managers.

If you want to learn more about our services and expertise, please contact us. Share your ideas with us, and we will find the best approach for transforming them into tangible solutions tailored to your business needs.

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