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I enjoy project managing, but after doing a period of account management in parallel to it, I really disliked Account management. I did not enjoy dealing with customers, but I enjoyed working with my internal team to help deliver the project.

Moving forward, does an agile project manager need to have account management skills?

  • Take into account that the role of account management (and even PM) may change a lot depending on your business / company. – Tiago Cardoso Jun 4 '16 at 11:35
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Yes. It will be an important skill: managing your client and their expectations.

In an Agile world, relationships are key. Since things are moving fast, they have the potential to break faster too. Hence the relationship will help you manage and grow your account.

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    +1 There is a great internet management meme of the job candidate that says "I want a job working with people because i really like people." To which the manager responds "That's great because all the jobs working with dogs are taken." In today's work place this can apply equally to Customers, End Users, etc. Project Management is about interacting with everyone who is or could be impact by a project. Agile is all about the customer. – Joel Bancroft-Connors Jun 2 '16 at 0:45
  • @RvK so if I can't do it well, does that mean I am not cut out to be a PM? In some organisations isn't the work directly delegated to an 'account manager' where all the PM does is informs the account manager the status of the project? – bobo2000 Jun 2 '16 at 8:19
  • @bobo2000 No-one here can judge whether you are cut out to be a PM or not since the ability to interact with other people is a spectrum not a binary choice. Maybe you are good enough at it and maybe you aren't. Also, consider that people often are not good at judging their own suitability- you may not like handling people, but you may still be good enough at it to satisfy the needs of many organisations, just maybe not all... – Marv Mills Jun 2 '16 at 10:48
  • @MarvMills I am not great at resolving conflicts, if a client is screaming at me I find it hard to deal with it. My strengths are getting work delivered in a timely manner using Scrum, and other agile methodologies. Since I come from a technical background (former developer), I find it helps immensely when it comes to the quality of the deliverables. – bobo2000 Jun 2 '16 at 11:31
  • I would suggest you give this a try. However from your comments it seems that you have and that you do not enjoy doing this. It is better to do something that you are comfortable with and more importantly enjoy doing : it should not be a chore to you. If being a technical PM is what interests you, do it. It might seem @ times like a demotion, but u would be happier and more successful – RvK Jun 3 '16 at 2:58
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You already build relationships with your team, but you find it hard to build a relationship with a customer. Perhaps someone has repeated the old saying "the customer is always right" once too often and you are now afraid to stand up for yourself: that's actually not uncommon, and customers know it too. That's why they sometimes act the way they do.

My view is that if you want to be a PM and the role needs you to deal with customers, there are strategies to cope with that. Assuming your company also employs sales people or people with "Account Manager" as part of their formal role, why not take them into customer meetings with you? It would be essential to brief them about the issues in advance, and most importantly, work out a strategy for dealing with the difficult situations that will inevitably arise, and predict how your customers are likely to react (especially to bad news). Think about how you want to respond to customer behaviours: maybe you can be flexible sometimes, while at other times, you need to put your foot down.

But also look for positive achievements that you can tell your customers, and win their trust. If you are only giving bad news, it's really tough out there. So don't just give bad news. Tell them about what you have achieved, what opportunities they will get from the things you are delivering, and make suggestions as to how to progress the project. Also ask for their help. People like to offer assistance, and it starts to make them part of your team, solving problems, instead of just throwing rocks at you while you sit and absorb the criticism.

So, back to your question: does an agile PM need account manager skills? - Yes, inevitably, but you can develop coping strategies and subcontract these skills to someone else until you have built your own confidence and can create the good working relationships that actually make the role feel rewarding. Use your wider team, and use the same interpersonal skills that make you a good delivery manager, and it will get easier.

  • @ Iain9688 thank you for this. I find managing an internal team easier since I understand their problems from a technical pov so I gain their respect quickly. Customers on the other hand are difficult to manage especially when they are clueless about the technical side and don't understand what is involved. – bobo2000 Jun 3 '16 at 9:11
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No one comes to the table with all the strengths necessary to the be ideal project manager. Every PM practitioner out there--and I really mean 100% of them because it is a human condition of our significant inability to be perfect--has varying degrees of strength and gaps in knowledge, skills, and abilities to be a PM.

What is fantastic about your post is that you have identified and admitted to a weakness in your skill set, which is quite atypical in the can-do arrogance often exhibited. This means you have an opportunity to 1) grow this skill the best you can and 2) figure out how to cope with this missing attribute by delivering this capability in another way. Dealing with your account is extremely important so it will not be easy to resolve for you but it is not impossible to resolve, either.

Get comfortable with the fact you will never be great at all things PM. You will have areas at which you are an expert, areas you are okay, areas you are mediocre, and still other areas where you are incompetent. Do what you can on those weaker areas but become great and greater where your strengths are and find coping mechanisms for those other areas...like the rest of us.

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I think it really depends on the size of the project/product and how it is defined. In my current company, TPM (tech side) do not have to manage CRM stuff and neither do the PMs. We as tech and tech-related teams need to dedicate ourselves to arriving at the best product. Again, this varies for companies of different sizes and responsibilities.

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