Change in Project Manager role


It used to be that a project manager did one thing: manage the success of the project. As IT budgets shrink and job responsibilities expand, there is no such thing as a typical project manager role. You’re expected to wear many hats, facilitate human resource issues, become a subject matter expert, and assist with key technical activities.

“I am managing a team of a thousand employees.” “I take care of five projects with more than six hundred employees.” “I am the program manager for a very big project rollout.” Do all these quotes from managers sound interesting or hollow to you? Statements like these may have been exciting a few years ago, but not these days.

I am playing the role of risk and mitigation manager in a SAP rollout project for a major retailer. I am the performance test architect in a core banking migration project for a bank. I am playing the role of test consultant for an insurance client who just recently acquired two other insurance companies. I am the cost optimization manager for a global securities client.

Should a project manager play the role of coordinator and people manager? With multiple technical and domain roles, it is easy to see how my original focus as project manager became diluted.

A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge, or the PMBOK® Guide, defines project management as identifying requirements; addressing the various needs, concerns, and expectations of the stakeholders as the project is planned and carried out; and balancing competing project constraints, such as scope, quality, schedule, budget, resources, and risk.

Take a typical IT program and check out how many managers are performing an extraordinary number of disconnected tasks. What benefit are they providing in controlling scope, schedule, and budget? How effective are they in managing quality and resources? Is there any available time to effectively plan for project risk and risk mitigation? By dividing time among several concurrent projects, is the role effective in an agile environment? And because most of us in project management come from technical backgrounds, do we still have responsibilities to perform technical tasks as architects, consultants, domain experts, and quality auditors?

Due to the complexity of projects in terms of size, new technology integration, cloud, performance, and security, there can be multiple managers taking projects in various directions.

Especially in the agile environment, these responsibilities are shared with team members who are expected to scale up.

Assuming the traditional definition and responsibilities of a project manager, the role is independent of specific technologies employed in the project. It is very difficult, however, to manage a team effectively unless you are comfortable in the technology or domain of the project.

Can a project management office coordinate all the activities of multiple managers? Do we still need people managers or project managers who manage real-world issues that are simply added on to the already heavy workload of technical managers? Project management roles that do not require technical or domain expertise are rapidly disappearing. The perception is that consolidator or coordinator roles don’t add value to the business.


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