In Mastering Software Project Management (J Ross Publishing 2010), Murali Chemuturi and I define software project management as the activities required to plan and lead software projects. Historically, IT projects have identified a single person to play this role. Programs, which are made up multiple projects, include multiple project managers that report to program manager. However, many forms of Agile have eschewed the project manager role and instead distribute the activities associated with project management across the core team, including the product owner, the development team and the Scrum Master. Project management as a role is dead, long live project management, the concept.
The product owner is responsible for managing a number of the activities that the project manager or administrator would have been tasked with in the past. Primarily, the product owner owns and manages the product backlog. Managing the backlog means prioritizing backlog items and determining the release plan (including scope and date). Managing the backlog also means that the product owner manages the budget, communicates progress, and interacts with external the stakeholders. As a secondary role, the product owner acts as a leader, providing the team with a direction.
The development team members also pick up some of the project management tasks. The development team is responsible for identifying, estimating and managing the tasks needed to deliver the work they have committed to completing. The development team’s roles mix creation and innovation with control and management.
The Scrum Master is responsible for facilitating, leading and motivating the team. Scrum Masters guide teams so that they learn and use Agile techniques, confront delivery problems as they occur and work together as a well-oiled machine. The Scrum Master also staves off interference from outside the team’s boundaries. The Scrum Master interacts with the team or teams, and then let the team members synthesize and internalize the advice. They are the team’s tactical coach.
In Agile, project management is dead, at least as a single role that leads, directs, controls and administers a project team, because those roles are distributed to the team. I was once asked, “In an Agile project, who is the single person I can put my foot on their throat to motivate?” In an Agile environment the answer is far less obvious than pointing to a project manager. The role simply isn’t filled by a single person, but the responsibilities and the tasks are still necessary. Now they are distributed to those that are actually have both the authority and responsibility for executing the project.