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 and most non-Agile frameworks 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 now have eschewed the role of the project manager and instead distributed 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. The primary role of the product owner is to own and manage the product backlog. Managing the backlog includes the activities of prioritizing backlog items and determining the release plan (including scope and date). Managing the backlog in many organizations also means the product owner manages the budget, communicating progress, and interacts with external the stakeholders. The product owner acts as a leader, providing the team with a direction using the backlog. He or she manages the backlog as a tool to exhibit that leadership.
The development team members also pick up some of the project management tasks. The development team is responsible for identifying and managing the tasks needed to deliver the work they have committed to complete. The development team roles mix creation and innovation with control and management, using techniques such as peer pressure, stand-up meetings and pair working.
The Scrum Master is responsible for facilitating, coaching 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 unit. The Scrum Master also serves as a shepherd to stave off interference from outside the team’s boundaries. The Scrum Master interacts with a team or teams, and then let the team members synthesize and internalize the advice. The Scrum Master is 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?” Without dignifying the question, 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 project manager. Now these responsibilities and tasks are distributed to those who that are actually have both the authority and responsibility for project execution.