I've worked on many teams, medium size (20+ developers) and smaller, and for the most part the project lead managed the project in terms of projections, collecting and reporting tasks and status reports, etc. In no case was that the only thing they did, and even in smaller teams it was easy to see that sometimes the project management suffered.

Whether that was due to poor PM skills, or due to lack of time is less clear.

What are a few key indicators that will help a team understand when to

  • Make project management a specific assigned task to a particular person (who may or may not be working on other aspects of this project)
  • Make project management the only task that person works on (full time)
  • Pull in a project management professional (ie, use someone who is trained specifically for this task, rather than someone whose primary skills lie elsewhere)

While it may be easy to focus on problems during the project that indicate more effort is needed, it would be better if we had indicators that could be used at the outset to determine the priority and resources dedicated to project management so that such issues are less likely to occur.


7 Answers 7


All projects, no matter the size or complexity, require the role of project manager--both real and fake--filled in some way. Even if the project is two resources large, a portion of the effort, while very small, needs to be devoted to PM-type things. That small portion can be filled by one of those two people or a third who "jumps in and out" of the project.

Providing a PM on a project does not mean a fully allocated, full-time PM. It means providing for the role of PM to the level of utilization consistent with what is needed for that project...the need is never zero, but it could be as low as an hour or two in a given work week.


Here are my key indicators.

  • When you have no idea what you've gotten done, what you have left to do, or what you're dependent on.
  • When you're consistently failing to integrate timelines between two (or more) teams.
  • When you're failing to live up to the expectations of your stakeholders. (Part of a PM's job is expectation management.)
  • When it can reduce your time to market by freeing up people capable of producing the work product. (Remove the admin burden from someone who could be productive elsewhere, like a lead developer.)

I'm interpreting your question as referring to PM who has experience, training, and (perhaps) qualifications, rather than someone who has picked up a few skills along the way and is prepared to take on the role.

I believe that the value that a PM brings is a rigorous approach, the ability to manage risk effectively, a strong planning capability, and the ability to react appropriately if anything is starting to fall off the track. If your projects exhibit a need for any of these abilities, then you need a professional PM. As David Espina says in his reply, this can be a part time role - very part time in some situations - but it will pay for itself many times over if your current project management capability is limited.

The PM can work on other aspects of the project, but should be identified as the PM, and therefore the person who guides the project, reports on progress, and handles any disputes of direction and planning. He or she need not be the most senior person in the team (but often will be), and certainly does not have to be a subject matter expert. In terms of the time devoted to PM duties, it is difficult to be specific about that. I don't think I have ever worked on a project, either as PM or as a team member, where the PM was 100% dedicated to PM duties, but this was always the top priority in the event of time conflicts.


I think you'll find the "Justifying a Project Manager" question answers your questions. Justifying and When to add are just two sides of the same question.

The question is located here


You would want a professional project manager when you want to improve the performance of your projects.

When the deliverables, potential risks of not meeting the requirements ( eg regulatory, compliance or safety requirements) and amount of money being spent on the project are sufficient for your organization to want professional and dedicated management - a cost/ benefit type call on the part of the organization.

When the organization wants to change the culture and processes of how things are done to perhaps improve decision making, build organizational standards or a company wide store of knowledge that outlasts any group of people.


I assume you mean by real, a full time dedicated PM. You have lots of good answers here. I'll add that you get early indications when,

  1. decisions don't get made because no one understands who should make the decision
  2. decisions get reversed
  3. no one cares if a deadline is met
  4. no one can articulate what the project is supposed to accomplish

Good luck


When the majority of the previous projects are delivered late and/or the customers are not happy and/or the software developers (or the team in general) do not seem to be focused on priorities then you definitely need a Project Manager. A PM does not need to be a subject expert, actually being a subject expert can bring disadvantage to the project and should not be the line manager of the team members because then he/she will be line managing and not project managing. Any project would benefit from a PM who can see the larger picture and can release the team from admin work.

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