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At my work we have a single project manager on site. We have several concurrently running projects split between a couple of dozen developers, and we also have several developer teams overseas who work on the same projects. Each project involves several cross-functional areas within our office, as well as cooperation with the overseas teams and several third party suppliers.

From what (admittedly little) I've read up online about the role of a Project Manager, it seems to me that they are meant to coordinate the project across teams, work to remove blockages, identify and act on risks.

It seems to me though, that our project manager only has a vague technical understanding of what we're doing and the cross-team collaboration, including pushing other teams to meet deadlines, often falls to me (I'm a team leader). He keeps track of our tasks at a very high level: we break down the project into tasks with estimates, we update our progress regularly, and he aggregates this information onto a graph. It does not seem to me that he understands what each task is. When he talks to us about these tasks it is basically a "how much time do you have left on this task" sort of conversation. And he just takes our word on it (which is fine with me, but possibly a problem when you just take the word of an overseas site that wants to make their figures look good).

There is no concept of linking our developer tasks to what QA is doing. While we try to push for agile within our team, QA follows a waterfall model, and starts after our feature work is done.

The act of working out potential bottlenecks, and coordinating cross-site tasks that are inter-related falls to us. We (developers) often have to push third party vendors or overseas sites for delivery dates. I think we're doing a good job at that, but to be honest I'm a technical person and I would rather be doing more technical work and focusing on my own team rather than looking at project spreadsheets, writing emails and having phone calls about other people's deadlines.

I feel like I should raise this with my management, or push back a bit when they ask me to do certain things, but I'm just not entirely sure whether my assumptions about what a project manager is meant to do are right. I haven't worked in very many software organisations, so I'm still relatively new to the org structure of a mid-sized company.

Any advice? Or maybe someone can point me to some page that outlines the different roles within a typical company clearly?

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migrated from programmers.stackexchange.com Jun 15 '13 at 3:09

This question came from our site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development.

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I'm not really sure if your question is about the project management discipline itself, or about the workplace politics involved in "raising this with management." Could you please clarify your intent a bit? –  CodeGnome Jun 15 '13 at 5:12
    
Related Question –  Mark C. Wallace Jun 16 '13 at 13:09

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The breakdown of PMs in a large project is just like the WBS, where PMs at the lower level are involved with more of the technical with some management and admin and where PMs at the higher levels are less involved with the technical and more in management and admin. A project team that is well designed would have those roles and responsibilities, and the boundaries of each level PM, well articulated. Whether or not the lower level PMs have the title project manager is inconsequential. Team leads, control account managers, assistant PM, whatever. The important thing is to understand who is doing what to whom and where and when and how that what occurs.

So I am reading in your draft evidence of role boundary ambiguity and roles and responsibilities confusion. I'd raise that to management so you can design the organization with a bit more rigor.

The piece your PM is focused on is hugely important. Don't downplay the analytics of PM because, without it, you won't sell the next piece of work and the money will stop flowing. It sounds like something is missing in the middle between the PM and you; the span of control throughout your organization is ill defined, perhaps.

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This makes sense to me. The single official PM effectively acts as the top tier PM and we act as the lower tier PMs. The boundary is ambiguous and I'll raise the ambiguity with my manager. Thanks for your feedback. –  kos Jun 16 '13 at 5:14

I've definitely met project managers whose main job was just to produce analytics (graphs, etc.) for higher-level management so they could quickly get an idea of how development projects are progressing, etc. Usually these project managers work at large companies where there are other project managers with other tasks. From what it sounds like, this is what your project manager mostly does. I'm a bit surprised to hear that he's only producing analytics when he's the only project manager there.

I would definitely say you should raise the issue with management, but you shouldn't necessarily "blame" the project manager for not managing cross-team communication, or dealing with third parties, etc. because he may not have been told to do that. It might be better just to ask for someone to deal with that kind of thing so that developers can focus on developing.

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It sounds to me as though you do have several project managers in the company - just that they don't have that as their job titles. These are the people who break down the tasks into activities, prepare the plans, update progress, working across sites, and liaising with vendors, etc. The person with the title of "Project Manager" is really fulfilling the role of either a Programme Manager or a project administrator, depending on the level of direction and authority that he has.

The culture of your organisation will indicate whether you can ask to be treated as / paid as / recognised as a project manager. If that's not what you want, though, you do need to raise it with someone - and that "someone" may even be the other PM.

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I guess the role of project manager, team lead needs to be defined properly by the management. Even though he is a project manager I see him operating as a Program Manager.

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