When looking for a vendor, a company’s management studies a lot of information concerning the product development lifecycle. But theoretical knowledge isn’t enough to ensure the successful launching of a project. Ensuring smooth and efficient cooperation between the team and the customer is the task of the project manager (PM). Let’s take a closer look at the responsibilities of project managers, their functions in the Agile software development methodology and learn some of their communication strategies.
Who Are the Stakeholders?
Let’s start with the stakeholders. There are many people, from both the customer’s and vendor’s sides, who can affect the product at different stages of its development and who are interested in its outcome. Apart from the project manager and the development team, we define two kinds of stakeholders: business and product stakeholders.
The key responsibilities of the business stakeholders are to describe the goals of the project and draw a perspective for its further use. This general view can be divided into lesser goals depending on the stakeholder’s field of interest. CEO, sales manager and marketing department, for instance, have different visual angles.
End users, or product stakeholders, have their own goals for the product. They are not interested in the sales boost or investment return. They want nice and smooth service, a user-friendly interface and flawless functioning. That is why requirements management is a critical routine in every development lifecycle.
The right project management professional can maneuver between the stakeholders, define priorities and draw a clear vision of future work for their team.
How Does a Project Manager Work?
We’ve already established that the task of stakeholders is to describe the business needs of the product. They provide the description in simple non-technical language, e.g., the user story. One of the project manager’s duties is to help create these stories, gather information from all stakeholders and start grooming it with the software development team. As a result, the PM together with the team creates a product backlog with the technical things that need to be developed to reach the business requirements.
The next thing to do is split the product backlog into smaller pieces, the sprints. These are short timeframes that establish when a particular task should be fulfilled. Every sprint should be agreed on in a meeting with all the participants (product owner, PM, team). As a result, you settle a certain amount of work that should be fulfilled by a defined deadline. The team has a sprint backlog with smaller tasks, deadlines and responsible members assigned.
This is what sprint goals may look like:
- Implement the basic product onboarding flow
- Build the registration form to input the name and the telephone number
- Develop the product price fee process to be able to choose a price, type and amount of fee for each new product
Within each sprint, the development team builds and tests a functional part of the product.
Keeping the stakeholders in the loop is another project manager’s responsibility. A Scrum Master provides the customer with product demos as the development goes forward. It is always better to show progress than tell about it.
The IT project manager takes care of the documentation concerning software development requirements. The stakeholders create and sign it according to the company’s management methodology. These docs help cover all deliverables and expectations and plan for any unforeseen challenges.
What Software is Used for the Project Management?
There are many tools to help PMs plan, manage and share information. The process of software development should be visualized and controlled, and some of the most widely used services to meet these tasks are Jira, Trello and Asana. There is a load of similar services, but it’s better to use those familiar to team members and customer representatives to save time and avoid inconveniences.
At ElifTech, we use Jira project management. We consider it one of the most powerful pieces of software, and it is easily integrated with our private third-party systems. Project planning, control over web development, estimation and sharing is plain and simple for all members of the process.
How to Ensure a Smooth Development Process
Uncertainty is the main thing that’s challenging the management process. An experienced PM knows how to deal with project requirements to minimize difficulties for both the team and the customer. The answer is Agile. Leveraging Agile techniques makes the job less stressful for all parties.
The PMO builds the development process according to the following scheme:
- breaking the entire project into stories and prioritizing them
- developing the essential features and releasing them to customers/users
- gathering feedback
- dividing the team into smaller Agile groups to work on separate tasks, providing better estimating techniques and minimizing risks
- breaking the coding process into APIs, modules, classes, methods, etc.
- using pair programming and code review
- using Agile tools for process management and tracking
Communication is one more vital ingredient of a smooth development process. Project managers speak with both customer and team regularly and in detail. They have a clear understanding of the strong and weak points of the team and leverage them for the best results. PMs know what workload is optimal for each team member. They can predict complications, eliminate personal misunderstandings and communication challenges.
What’s more important, experienced project managers knows their limitations and won’t set impossible deadlines and support unrealistic customer expectations. They trust the team to make their own decisions on some issues, acquire information from the customer and ask as many questions as needed. An ineffective communication model between the team and the customer often leads to irreversible consequences.
Project management is not a piece of cake since we deal with many unpredictable variables. However, PMs have to make every effort to ensure the processes are running smoothly. First, the PM should define clear requirements for the project considering the suggestions of the business and product stakeholders. Second, the project manager has to record the requirements in one document and make sure all participants have access to this document. This way, everyone can read the tasks, ask the right questions and track the process.
And don’t forget: work planning is essential and should never be neglected. Even if the plan is only an estimation and there will be alterations in the future, it’s always easier to change priorities and discuss the moments with the stakeholders consulting an existing scheme than to move in a blind direction.
If you have any questions regarding the topic, feel free to contact ElifTech's project manager Ihor Cheliadinov.