Agile Scrum? Customers still need projectmanagers!

I had an interesting discussion the other day about Agile Scrum and the fact that it is claimed that project managers are not needed when doing Scrum. Well I am not aware personally that it is claimed project managers are not needed at all. Simply that they are not needed in the traditional sense. As in, micromanaging developers with detailed planning and being in charge of what happens, because they carry end-responsibility. They can still be very useful though, to manage all the external stakeholders, thus keeping product owners and teams focused on the task ahead. Teams manage themselves in scrum and thus carry responsibility as well. But that is not the point of this post, the point was the following statement by my friend:

“The client still has a fixed budget and a deadline when they want their software to be done. A project manager is always needed to get it done in time for the budget which is agreed to.”

And I started thinking about this fact. Because I will not deny this, clients always have budgets and deadlines. Of course they do! But how many IT projects do you know that were done in time and within the budget? Can you imagine for a second that as far as the team and the PO goes there is no deadline or budget? Hear me out…

A project manager can plan for weeks on end on a piece of software which the clients themselves do not even know entirely what it should look like. So you plan on something fictional, therefore your plan is basically fiction. The project manager creates a beautiful fairytale in which everyone lived happily ever after (meaning within budget and time). Then reality came along and ruined the project manager’s fictional tale of splendor and wonder.

What if the client keeps the budget and deadline to himself. And the PO and team just starts working on the first and foremost features the needed application must have. And every two weeks (a sprint) the PO and team shows the client a working set of software and a project manager calculates how much the sprint is going to cost the client. The client keeps track of how much budget and time is left (and should signal in time of course that a resource is depleted).

When the budget and/or time is depleted chances are extremely high the PO and team have realized a certain set of working features. Have they realized everything the client needs? I do not know. Does the client know? But if they prioritized well enough in the beginning then at least the features are realized which the client needed by the passing of the deadline. So that must’ve been taken care off by now. Or we have a really poor PO, but that is a subject which deserves a post on itself.

So to come back to the original statement. When the client first decided budget and a deadline, how did they do this? It takes traditional projectmanagers weeks to plan (to get it wrong in the end) and a client just draws out of a big hat a budget and a deadline? If all the client has left in their pocket is ten bucks and still they ask you to build an airplane. Would you start planning? It makes no sense. Let the client keep track on their budget and time and let the software developers do what they do best, add value to their client’s business.

I am interested in your thoughts. Do not be shy.

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About Danny

Bachelor in Commercial ICT MCTS Winforms .NET 2.0 MCTS ASP.NET 3.5 PSM I
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3 Responses to Agile Scrum? Customers still need projectmanagers!

  1. tisquiiirrel says:

    Great post. I think that when we introduce the scrum master and product owner there is no real place for the classic Project Manager. I am sure one of the most important tasks of the PM was to remove all impediments, so the project can be delivered on time and budget. This goes to Scrum Master. Product owner is the one who still has that “release milestones plan” and who tracks the budget /features done/dates. So it seems that only Project Manager’s task which is not covered by SM/PO is bringing everyone coffee and sending invoices to the client? (oops, account managers are usually sending invoices, so we have only coffee left).

    • Danny says:

      So funny you said that. The other day I was discussing another location with our chief R&D and he explained the role of the project managers there in addition to the POs there. When he was done I asked him why they are not simply called account managers. He laughed and confessed he did not know exactly. Haha. Great stuff…

      • tisquiiirrel says:

        I know why! They are not called account managers as it is a “downgrade” for them))) I worked as a PM for some time, I know what I mean) When you start changing not only the structure and processes, but try to change people’s minds in your organization – it’s huge. But I always try just follow KISS here too and don’t like overheads. If you are making step forward – be consistent and just get rid of Project Managers. And try now to hire “Iteration Managers”, as PMs are very clever and they can mutate)))

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