Are Project Managers The Dodo of The Agile Age?

This article is sponsored by KnowledgeHut and was written by Shivam Abrol.

Is the project manager’s position on its last legs? Like the dodo, will project managers find themselves extinct in the Agile age?

Many old school project managers lament the fact that they do not fit into the Agile context and their approaches are no longer appreciated. What has led to project managers being on the list of endangered species?

For one, the very approach to project management has changed. Under the old methodologies, projects had a long gestation period and inception to completion used to take months before a final product was delivered. Projects used to have large teams and organizations had considerable budgets at their disposal.

But today, with Agile working gaining ground even in large organisations, teams are moving towards a product mind-set. Budgets have shrunk, speed has won over perfection and a faster time to market means products hit the market in weeks, not years.

Don’t be a dodo

How can you stay relevant in the Agile age and avoid extinction? By recognising the importance of time, scheduling and completing tasks within hours or days instead of weeks and months.

The waterfall model of software development requires creating a requirements document—a cumbersome process in itself which then requires a sign-off from the client before production can begin.

Then comes the development and testing and if in-between the customer changes her mind and new requirements need to be added, then the whole process starts from scratch again.

But Agile requires the project manager to be more proactive. The role has morphed from being someone who controls the schedule and processes to someone who actively leads all elements of the project, contributing to user stories, helping others understand Agile techniques and concepts, and managing the product backlog.

Stay up-to-date with technology

Then of course there is the technology. Rapid changes and evolution in technology means IT is becoming less labour intensive and more productivity and tools driven. There are tools out there designed to make your life easier, faster and more efficient. The best way to adapt is by skilling up! Learn new tools and frameworks and you will no longer feel like a Stegosaurus in the tech age.

Outcome over process

Your mind-set can no longer be process driven. As a project manager in the Agile age, outcome over process should be your new mantra. And to emulate this, you need to have a fair appreciation of the business and product that is being built.

Development today is way more chaotic and productive than it used to be. The only way to ensure a successful product is by allowing the team to express itself and this is possible only when the project manager facilitates a more democratic and egalitarian environment. So a project manager who is a friend, guide and philosopher will be far more successful than somebody who is a dictator. Gone are the days when being a people person was something you could do from the top down – if they ever existed at all.

Fail fast is an approach that has contributed to Agile’s success. Do not be afraid of failure. Remember that the faster you fail the sooner you can be safely out the other side, identifying the cause, influencing others to recognise that failure and rectifying it.

5 Ways to stay relevant

Stay relevant in the Agile age by:

  1. Being more hands on. You cannot be superficial and ignore everything except the list of tasks that you need to track.
  2. Understanding new technology. You need to come out of your technical hubris.
  3. Adopting a Product Manager mindset, thinking about the product, the market, the features and stories.
  4. Bridging the gap between technology and product.
  5. Not being afraid to fail. Failure is not always a bad thing.

Project managers don’t need to become extinct. Far from it. Given the invaluable experience gained over time, with a little reskilling and change in mindset and some drive, project managers can effectively lead organisations in transitioning between large IT set ups, to nimble small teams, driven by outcomes rather than process.

KnowledgeHut is a PMI Registered Education Provider offering online and classroom courses including CSPO Certification and PMP.