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What should the proper title of this position be, at a tech company that focuses on developing software?

Role Requirements:

  • Manage several Business Systems' Web, Database and Cloud Projects
  • Previous Software or Web-Based PM Experience
  • Previous Agile Development Experience
  • Previous SDLC Experience
  • Cross-Functional Communication (Technical/Dev. Teams and Operations)
  • Experience with Technical Software

The PM does not write code in this position.

Others have told me that this is a traditional "Software Development Project Manager" role. If this role is specifically managing software development projects for business systems, how would you write the title?

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not related to project management concepts, tools, and processes. – Aziz Shaikh Apr 23 '15 at 4:48
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    I went ahead and answered this question because a misunderstanding of roles and responsibilities is at the core of many PM issues. – Michael Boses PMP Apr 24 '15 at 17:47
  • I think this question can use some heavy editing, but I think the underlying question of "What kind of PM is a PM responsible for X?" is salvageable. – Todd A. Jacobs Apr 25 '15 at 12:08
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  • IT Project Manager
  • Agile Project Manager
  • Software Project Manager
  • Software Delivery Manager
  • IT Programme Manager (if all projects aligned to the same vision)

The job title is largely semantics. The key drivers for the applicant will be responsibilities, key performance indicators and the compensation package.

You could always A/B test the job titles and see which CV's come back from different recruiters.

Give Recruitment company A the job description under the heading IT Project Manager and Recruitment Company B the job description under the heading Agile Delivery Manager. Then compare and contrast the return rates and quality of the CV's.

  • Software PM and Software Development PM are the exact same, right? – anonymous_pm_guest Apr 22 '15 at 7:17
  • I wrote Software Delivery Manager – Venture2099 Apr 22 '15 at 17:46
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This is a good question that points to something that can make it more difficult for teams to succeed. I think the reason the title for this position is unclear is because the list of Requirements is a mixture of responsibilities and qualifications that contains less detail than is necessary to fully define the role. The result is that the prospective employee, recruiter, and even future team members will not fully understand how this person integrates to the team.

My experience is that teams work best when roles are clearly defined, and the job description should say what this person must actually do if the software development projects are to succeed.

The following identifies whether each Requirement in the list seems to be a responsibility or qualification, along with some additional notes on what might help clarify the position:

Responsibility: Manage several Business Systems' Web, Database and Cloud Projects

  • Manage them how? Manage the schedule, resources, and budget which leans more towards being a Project Manager or the daily operation of the developers which leans more towards being a Technical Lead? I suggest listing the specific responsibilities encompassed by the term "manage."

Qualification: Previous Software or Web-Based PM Experience

  • This is the clearest requirement if you are looking for someone to apply the same skills with the same responsibility that they had in this prior position. If this is true than I believe you are looking for a Project Manager.

Qualification: Previous Agile Development Experience

  • Is this experience as a developer, PM, or some other role? Does it matter? If it does not matter then the qualification is important but does not tell us how to define the new role.

Qualification: Previous SDLC Experience

  • As above with the Agile Development Experience.

Responsibility: Cross-Functional Communication (Technical/Dev. Teams and Operations)

  • This is an important aspect of the role, but it could apply to a BA, Technical Lead, Project Manager, etc. What is the scope of this person's interaction? Relaying requirements, providing status reporting, negotiating features included in a particular release? The answer to these questions define the role and the appropriate title for the position.

Qualification: Experience with Technical Software

  • You may want to be more specific about what you mean by Technical Software. Is it important to you that the experience be in "the above roles," then you might want to say that as well.
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This is always a tricky one as it sits nervously overlapping on:

  • Technical (Dev) Team Leader
  • Project Manager
  • Software Development Manager

As such you are likely to see it listed in all such ways around the market (it always grinds my gears when I see Tech Team Lead responsibilities marked up as a PM role).

If there was no multi-project management component I would say it aligns to the Development Manager role. However as soon as actual project management becomes involved, and especially as there are no code-cutting responsibilities, it is a pure Project Management role. However I would expect some matrix-management with the technical teams having access to, and probably line management responsibilities covered by, an actual Software Development Manager as they will be the domain experts in the technology, not the PM.

But for the job spec above, I tend to lean towards 'Technical Project Manager' in order to differentiate from a PM that handles business and/or process change, since PM of projects containing significant software development and delivery carries several key skillset and knowledge requirements.

I class myself as a Technical Project Manager and regularly turn down opportunities for Project Management contracts (or are not considered) that are not software related. Another specialisation I see regularly is 'Infrastructure Project Manager' where hardware and infrastructure deliveries form a significant part of the project.

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TL;DR

While I'm tempted to close this question as an opinion poll, I think it can be retconned to properly focus on the roles and responsibilities of a project management position. This also leads to a very simple answer:

  1. Titles are a communications tool, but have little intrinsic meaning.
  2. What you're asking for is a Technical Project Manager.

Role "Requirements" Aren't Responsibilities

Your fundamental issue is that you have failed to clearly identify the scope of the role, the responsibilities of the role, and the deliverables for the role. A job title should never focus on qualifications, it should be a form of shorthand to describe what the role is supposed to accomplish.

In your laundry list of requirements, you have actually listed only two actual responsibilities:

  1. Manage several Business Systems' Web, Database and Cloud Projects
  2. Cross-Functional Communication (Technical/Dev. Teams and Operations)

You are tasking this person with managing a series of technical projects, and making them responsible for inter-team communications. Because you'd like this person to be technically-literate in addition to performing the responsibilities listed above, Technical Project Manager would seem to be a reasonable shorthand description that would clearly communicate the scope of the role.

Consult Your Management Team and Your HR Department

Spooning around titles in a vacuum is generally a bad idea. If your company has historically called the role outlined above "The Powerless Junior Assistant in Charge of Pointless Updates," then that's what you should call it, too. The title needs to convey scope within a company-centric way, so don't wander off the reservation when inventing new titles.

Secondly, it seems like you're really trying to write a job description or a help-wanted ad, rather than simply identify the correct title for the job. If such is the case, you need to involved the appropriate professionals at your organization to help you:

  1. Write a clearer job description, with a better focus on roles and responsibilities rather than on skills or job history.
  2. Identify the appropriate company as used by your company internally.
  3. Identify an appropriate job title that would attract the type of candidate you need.

While writing job descriptions, want ads, and the recruiting process itself are all outside the scope of acceptable topics on PMSE, the understanding of how to engage the correct company resources to initiate or staff a project is certainly within bounds. In my experience, when you focus on a job's core responsibilities, the job title will largely write itself.

  • The term "technical" could be applied to projects well outside the domain of software development. Using "software" in the tile might be more precise. – WaltHouser Apr 25 '15 at 19:54
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Some organizations use "agile" without understanding the concepts or practices. If your organization has adopted agile or scrum, by all means state so unambiguously, preferably in the job title. If not, don't use the buzzword hoping that hiring agile team members will miraculously convert your organization. Agile PMs and scrum masters are wary lot and will be annoyed unless you convincingly communicate your organization's commitment to change. Some will jump at the challenge but expect to be compensated for the additional pain; they will be making transformational changes in your organizational culture that goes well beyond the software shop. If you aren't agile/scrum, have seasoned agile managers/scrum masters do the resume screening and interviewing. Look out for wannabes who see this as a way into agile/scrum.

The requirement for "Cross-Functional Communication (Technical/Dev. Teams and Operations)" might imply to some that you may be looking for "devops" experience. Like agile and scrum, devops is a hot buzzword which should be used with care in a recruitment. Devops is also a transformational change in your organizational culture that is often the logical outgrowth of a successful agile development organization. Be prepared to be able to answer questions about whether this PM is to implement devops solutions.

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