12

A friend of mine has come up with a great idea for a product.

He has gathered up a group of friends, who think the idea rocks, and is well on the way to convincing them(/us) to donate 16 hours/week of our time to make this dream a reality. While there is no money involved (yet) he would like to handle this as a proper commercial project.

He came to me and knowing that I have abit of project management experience, asked if I could be the PM for it.

He doesn't want to handle the management. while it was initially his dream and his charisma that is getting a team together, once it is underway, he just wants to do dev work.

However at the end of the day, He is still the 'Owner', still the guy to sign off on the finished product etc.

  • How is this going to play out?

    • In all my experience the Product owner/sponsor has been well above the devs, and is generally extremely hands off. Often only getting updates monthly
  • What conflicts are likely

  • Should I create a semiformal written social contact outlining various peoples responsibilities and rights for the development of the product?
4

I strongly support J's suggestion: you have a delicate situation, and write things down might help a lot down the road. What you might be looking for is a RACI Matrix where you need to specify two very distinct roles your mate will cover: client / product owner and developer.

Also, this diagram will make things easier to understand who should make the calls. The main role of a PM in a project is reporting and making sure project is on track. As the 'product owner' will be part of the team, he'll be up to date on the overall progress... so not a big problem. What I'd make clear on the RACI is who's supposed to make the calls on tuff decisions. It's NOT the main role of a PM to take decisions.

PMs are expected to propose scenarios, the client / product owner / your buddy / a small group within the team takes the decision. That's the sort of thing that worth put some time on and draft a few rows. You don't need to do an extensive exercise, draft some roles and, as the time goes by, go back to the drawboard and add some more roles onto it.

Success!

2

The roles are inherently a conflict of interest. For example, in Scrum the role of Product Owner is distinct from that of a Development Team member. However, many startups have founders who are also developers, either out of desire or necessity.

The rest of your question is simply too broad and too much of an opinion poll to address in the general case. You'll need to be guided by your experience of the people involved in structuring the team; no one outside your group will really be able to advise you on what will work best for the individuals involved.

2

Project managers are often used in flatter or matrix style organizations. It's quite possible for you to take on the project management side of things, such as managing schedules, costs, communication, etc, while offloading the functional management to the "owner".

The functional manager, in this case, would work directly with the team building the project, whereas as a PM you're not directly involved in any of that. Being a PM doesn't mean you necessarily run the project.

An example of a functional manager would be the dev team lead, or a marketing manager, or a sales director -- people who possess a set of skills and who lead others with those same skills. For instance, a sales manager would lead a team of salespeople. A project manager, on the other hand, works with those different teams to help coordinate everything. In many cases, there's no formal authority. Your friend, being a developer, would likely fill something similar to a dev lead role.

Now, you'll definitely want to create a written contract, one which clearly defines your roles, what your level of authority is, and how you'll resolve disputes. It's impossible to do your job effectively if you're being micromanaged, but this can be done. There are executives who are used to delegating responsibility to others. In fact, an organization cannot succeed unless executives can let go of the wheel in some areas and let others drive.

When it comes to conflicts, the one that I see most likely to occur is either disagreement between the owner and other developers, or disagreements between you and the owner regarding some PM process. Anything PM related should ideally be your responsibility and your decision, so this should go in the contract.

As far as disputes between other developers goes, your friend simply cannot be an ordinary, blissfully ignorant developer. He's not an ordinary developer; he's the founder and leader of the project, whether he likes it or not. It's his product vision; thus, he should most likely deal with anything that involves technical decisions.

  • This is really helpful. Can you further expand upon what kind of things a 'functional manager' might do? – Lyndon White Oct 11 '14 at 1:29
  • An example of a functional manager would be the dev team lead, or a marketing manager, or a sales director -- people who possess a set of skills and who lead others with those same skills. For instance, a sales manager would lead a team of salespeople. A project manager, on the other hand, works with those different teams to help coordinate everything. In many cases, there's no formal authority. Your friend, being a developer, would likely fill something similar to a dev lead role. Hope this helps. – jmort253 Oct 11 '14 at 3:25
  • That helps alot. You could edit it into the answer. – Lyndon White Oct 11 '14 at 4:25

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