By Paul McAteer, Head of Project Delivery

Running a complex software development project without a Project Manager would be comparable to a ship without a Captain – very likely to hit the rocks.  The Project Manager has the responsibility of planning and execution of the project, ultimately managing and maintaining the progress, interaction and tasks of the project team in such a way that reduces the risk of failure, maximizes customer benefits and minimizes costs.

Implementing the wrong management approach can spell potential disaster.  Adopting waterfall rather than agile might deliver what was asked for by the business, however may not actually result in what was needed.  With this is mind, it’s imperative that the Project Manager has a clear understanding of the requirements, expectations, milestones and deadlines and adopts the most suitable management approach for the project.

  • In the event that the project has a very tight and compelling deadline, adopting an agile management approach means less time spent on requirements gathering at the outset of the project. This approach allows for the project scope to change rapidly and frequently, by placing emphasis on stakeholder involvement and communications.  This process needs to be highly managed with a close eye kept on resource utilisation, project costs and output expectations to avoid the situation spiraling out of control.
  • If the stakeholders have an exact idea of their requirements (ie porting from a legacy system), then waterfall may be best. This method is based on progress flowing steadily through the phases of conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, production/implementation and maintenance.  However, also having a thorough understanding of what the business needs (as opposed to what they want) is essential in order to deliver the final product or solution that works best.

It is essential that the Project Manager has open lines of communication with all stakeholders and end users. They should be empowered with the appropriate level of authority and possess effective relationship skills in order to make things happen and effect change on a day to day basis particularly when resolving any challenges and ensuring that the all relevant parties live up to their responsibilities.

Inevitably, with complex technical projects, the technical detail can become baffling to most observers, however to the Project Manager, they need to be able to understand at a high level the technicalities and their potential impacts on project delivery.  The Project Manager isn’t going to be writing code or creating technical architecture, but they do need to possess a level of technical understanding in order to communicate effectively with everyone involved without having to call upon the support of a technical authority to translate at every turn.

Finding and keeping experienced Project Managers in today’s competitive market can be tricky, however this resource is imperative to the successful outcome of any large project and shouldn’t be overlooked.

In the next post, we’ll consider how technology and in-house IT resources can impact successful project fulfilment.

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