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In a Scrum team there is no role of a project manager. Does that mean that project manager jobs will eventually disappear? What is a project manager supposed to do when organization starts to shift over to Scrum?

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    Welcome to PMSE! Please see this related answer: pm.stackexchange.com/a/4717/34 – jmort253 Jun 10 '13 at 2:45
  • @jmort253 Thanks! Great that we can link these questions together since they are related raising an important question in a changing world. – JustinBieber Jun 10 '13 at 19:47
  • There's a link in my first comment, and I've added another comment on the other post linking back to this one. Good idea! – jmort253 Jun 11 '13 at 3:09
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The Project Management role grew from needs to coordinate in the traditional environments. If the title sticks around, the role still has to change. I've seen PMs take on higher level coordination, become a PO, become a SM or design a new role altogether. This is all depending on your organization, quality of agile adoption and access to coaching. If not thought put carefully you can create duplicated work and unnecessary role confusion.

A year ago I put together a graphic to help some other PMPs with the discussion. Maybe it will also bring you some clarity. This in no way is an exhaustive list or view, just an illustration of how some responsibilities might shift and the importance of understanding how people share roles.

Blog Post - Moving Away From Titles or "What Happens to to Project Managers in an Agile Transition"

enter image description here

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    Nice graph. It sure is adapted to the current situation. However, I think you should take release manager into a consideration also. From my experience, I've seen project manager becoming Product owner AND release manager in a smaller organisation. – JustinBieber Jun 10 '13 at 19:56
  • Thanks. That is why I said it is not exhaustive and is meant to give you an idea of how you meant think out the specifics in your business. I suggest your make your own and share it with others to see if you can get a shared understanding. – Erin Beierwaltes Jun 11 '13 at 21:07
  • Link has expired archived link at web.archive.org/web/20120611060829/http://… – GeoffBurns Jun 8 at 4:38
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Probably not. The main job of a PM is to drive all the stakeholders in the same direction, which is sometimes more diplomacy and communication than actually project organisation.

Scrum is a methodology to deliver product in accordance with requirements. However, a project is usually not limited to simply delivery a product, it may involve business, communication, strategic planning... aspect in which a PM can still have a real part to play.

In a organization using Scrum, PM can shift from technical to more managerial aspect "representing" the project outside of the development team. It may also sometimes merge/collude with some team management job.

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  • Welcome to PMSE! Thanks for taking the time to contribute. :) – jmort253 Jun 10 '13 at 2:46
  • @valeuf if the main job of a PM is to drive all the stakeholders in the same direction, I believe in Erin's Beierwaltes answer from the above that the role of a project manager will be involved in managing the product answering to the stake holders. Rather than delivering the project. So, in your opinion, project manager will probably shift into a role of a product manager. – JustinBieber Jun 10 '13 at 20:02
  • @JustinBieber In a perfect world where Agile allows you to produce continuous release you can only play one parameter : the scope of each release. In this case, project manager rules may shift towards more product management, where the main responsibility will be more about the scope to be delivered, over securing the delivery itself. – valeuf Aug 20 '13 at 4:25
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I agree with Valeuf; in our organisation the 'scrummaster' role is taken up by the team-leads. But this is only for more maintenance/support/ small changes kind of work (and they are often working more in a Kanban style)

However, the larger projects often have multiple scrumteams working in parallel, so there remains a lot of project setup work, coordination, budget-follow up, communication with operations teams etc.

Besides the list valeuf has proposed, I would definitley add Risk Management!

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  • If Risk Management should be concluded as one of the task in this new role, which we all in some certain level agrees that the Project Manager role is changing. Who do you suggest should handle the risk management if there is no project manager in a scrum team? – JustinBieber Jun 10 '13 at 20:07
  • I wouldn't know if the project manager role is changing; it isn't in my domain. What is happening is that ongoing maintenance work is managed by teamleads, and this work is handled in an agile manner. Also, some parts of a project may be organised with agile techniques, but not everything. The PM role remains valid, whatever the underlying techniques applied. From a pure theoretical point of view, Risk process management should probably be devided among Product owner/scrum master. However, risk management remains a team effort. – Stephan Jun 11 '13 at 10:06
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TL;DR

If you want to be relevant in the agile world, update your skills. If you want to stay with traditional methodologies, target the right job sectors.

Project Management in the Market

Does it mean that the project manager job eventually will disappear?

Not in the foreseeable future. Project management as a career will be around as long as there are valid business cases for the role. Traditional project management will likely be around for a long time in the manufacturing, construction, and government sectors, and anywhere that modern agile practices are not a good fit.

Agile methodologies are not restricted to IT projects, but in my personal experience I have seen limited uptake in other types of business units. Your mileage may certainly vary.

Avoid Obsolescence

What is a project manager supposed to do when organization starts to shift over to Scrum?

This seems to be the real heart of your question. You appear to be asking what you should do to prevent your current career path from becoming obsolete. The answer is really no different than any other career in an information economy:

  1. Maintain market relevance.
  2. Continually improve your skill set.
  3. Shift your career goals based on your abilities and market demand.

If your current market segment is "going agile," then educate yourself about agile methodologies and update your skills. If you can't or won't do that, then you'll likely have to shift your career focus towards market segments where traditional project management practices and career progressions remain relevant.

Arguing from analogy, people still make money doing COBOL programming. It's a niche market, but it hasn't died out the way everyone predicted. Even if some new project control hotness comes along in the future that makes both traditional and agile methodologies look old-school, there will likely be areas where those methodologies still apply.

Personal Choice

Currently, there are careers to be made in both the agile and traditional project management camps. Which one is best for you is a personal choice; there's no canonical answer that applies to everyone.

I'll let you know which career track is the "best" choice when my crystal ball starts working again, or when the future gets around to becoming the present. In the meantime, good luck!

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  • Great answer. Raising and answering the real heart of my question. If the project manager is to maintain their market relevance, should they re-educate themselves to be prepared for a role of a product owner? Is there such an education that qualifies you as a product owner? – JustinBieber Jun 10 '13 at 20:18
  • @JustinBieber I'm not sure that I'd call a career change to Product Owner a progression; it's just a different role in the same way that a Product Manager is not necessarily a direct progression from Project Manager. However, if you're interested in going that route, a number of organizations offer certifications like the Scrum Alliance CSPO. – Todd A. Jacobs Jun 10 '13 at 20:56
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Despite the hype, there will not be a Scrum world! Scrum has its place, and that place is very specific: Scrum applies where a company has a simple architecture and competes based on its time-to-market ability to deliver user-driven functionality/features.

In any other market, Scrum (pure Scrum) imposes so many constraints that it is neither realistic nor viable.

Think in terms of regulated companies; Companies that don’t compete based on time-to-market, but instead on some other metric; Companies that have proprietary technology; TBTF companies; Companies with a complex architecture; Companies that have long lead times; Companies that have a lock on the market...

The reality is that Scrum is only realistic for the subset of companies that need to compete based on ability to deliver new features in a specific timeframe AND they have an architecture that allows iterative/incremental Agile design.

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    Almost all companies (regulated, w/ proprietary tech, etc) compete based on time-to-market. The more the field is developed the more important it is. E.g. I work in a highly regulated field (pharma) - you still need to create drugs faster than others. Of course that's not the only important metric, but it is important. PS: I don't defend Scrum here (precisely because its time-to-market is bad compared to modern methodologies). – Stanislav Bashkyrtsev Jun 12 at 6:06
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    And by the way... Architecture complexity doesn't defy agility or iteration-based development or time-to-market. Actually the more complicated the software the lower time-to-market it demands to be successful. Take Facebook for example - huge and complicated network of software, a lot of integration points, one of the biggest infrastructures in the world. They release every couple of days. Because otherwise it just becomes impractical. – Stanislav Bashkyrtsev Jun 12 at 6:15
  • I agree that Architecture complexity doesn’t defy either agility or iterative design - but in an environment that is reasonably well understood, agile/iterative design as promoted by Scrum is not the most efficient way to go about a big design - even if iterative implementation and refinement is. Agile - and especially Scrum - prioritizes short-term feature delivery ahead of long term delivery efficiency. In entrepreneurial environments that is great, but where funding is secured and your only competition is the clock, there are faster ways to get to a better long term result than pure Scrum. – woneill1701 Jun 13 at 0:31
  • I don't know.. I've seen cases when features take months to be developed, but they weren't too common. I think even in the environment "that's reasonably well understood" (which seems to be exceptional) this understanding is an illusion. After you developed a feature you need users to try it out, otherwise you may think it's done, but no one is going to actually use. Maybe if you're trying to create a (partial) clone of some other app this won't be the case.. – Stanislav Bashkyrtsev Jun 13 at 7:15
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    Also - don't use Agile and Scrum in the same sentence :) Agile means "use common sense instead of blindly following procedures"; Scrum is just one of the procedures. – Stanislav Bashkyrtsev Jun 13 at 13:58
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Fully agree ... "the rumors of my death are greatly exaggerated ..."

The project-manager's role, fundamentally, is to be the liaison between "the project" and "the business."

IMHO, "far more than being a managerial role, this is a communications role." When the business needs to know something about the project, and/or wishes to exert some control over the project to meet business objectives, "the PM, by design, is 'in the Hot Seat!'"

(S)He is: "The Buck-Stopper.™" The go-between. "(S)He is Janus ... the two-headed god." And you seriously do not appreciate what it actually means to live beneath his/her shadow.


This very-essential role of the PM remains the same, no matter how the team chooses to organize itself. (And, the team's internal organization will never eliminate it – nor should it try.)

Changes to the team's internal organization will of course call for changes to the PM's "inward-facing half" of its appointed role, but "never to the other half!" (No, you really don't want to know ...)

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  • Mike, In Scrum the PO is accountable to the business and is the representative of the business customer. Are you making a distinction between PO and PM or are you saying that the PO role is effectively a substitute PM role? – nvogel Jun 25 at 4:57

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