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On the Necessity of Project Managers

Claudio Gutierrez

Claudio Gutierrez

President & Founder — Valens Project Consulting

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Warren Buffet has famously said that you should never ask a barber if you need a haircut. The meaning, of course, is that one should never lob softballs at a business intent on selling because that’s exactly what you’ll get… a sales pitch, a justification for existing. When it comes to project management, however, the answer is not quite simple. There are those that suggest that it’s a redundant role that can be executed by a servant leader (such as a scrum master in agile environments), a business unit leader at the upper echelons of an organization, or even automated reporting and tracking processes. However, there are a number of reasons why the role of the traditional PM is here to stay. After all, even automation needs oversight and management. Here are five of the main reasons why the role of a project manager is crucial in every organization.

 

 
Task Prioritization

This is probably the first thing that comes to mind for most traditional PMs. Though many activities can take place concurrently, being able to map out and anticipate when other teams’ deliverables will be critical is of utmost importance for smooth project execution and helps to address bottlenecks before they interfere with project progress. A clear order of execution will also help deter the dreaded scope creep that plagues projects of all sizes and that can more easily be dealt with by seeing the big picture.

 

Ensure Efficient Communication

This applies both to internal communication between teams and individuals as well as keeping external stakeholders engaged and their expectations managed properly. When there is one main point of contact for all parties involved in the project, the chances of misunderstandings decrease dramatically and fewer things fall through the cracks.

 

Optimize Corporate Processes

A project manager not only has to ensure that the project is advancing properly but often has to navigate corporate politics in a savvy way that ensures that all necessary resources are available to the project. By communicating the value, progress, and expected benefits of a project to all corporate levels, bureaucratic obstacles can be avoided and the organization’s goals can be accomplished more efficiently.

 

Unlock the Potential of Cross-Functional Teams

The best way to guarantee that a team won’t perform at its best is to mandate unnecessary processes that interfere with project dynamics and productivity. By giving a team free reign over their particular specialty to achieve their expected results, and by removing time-consuming administrative obligations, a project manager ensures that a particular team is making steady progress towards project completion.

 

Timely and Focused Reporting

Developing and interpreting the correct metrics for project tracking is not only important to the project team, but also to all stakeholders involved. Oftentimes, what’s valuable to one stakeholder makes no sense to another, and the complexities of processes and initial iterations at any one point are not always what a customer wants to deal with. Developing and analyzing hard data, especially when it depends on various teams, is something that is better handled by one single resource.

 

The traditional structure of a project and the role of the project management can certainly be occasionally replaced by other arrangements, but even agile approaches for project execution need an overall plan to ensure the right thing is being delivered in the right way and at the right time. And when not merely incrementally improving an existing product, a project, by definition, needs to be guided, defended, and brought to a successful conclusion by somebody, that at the end of the day, is accountable for its success.

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