The role of a project or engagement manager is often given short shrift in software development outsourcing and consulting, but we feel these individuals fill a critical need and often serve as the proverbial glue in any exercise.

They’re in the trenches

We know from long experience that every engagement needs eyes and ears on the ground, staff who are working day to day alongside the developers, designers, DevOps, and QA resources assigned to a client project. Job titles vary, we gravitate towards Project Manager (PM), but Engagement Manager and even Team Lead sometimes crop up depending on client preferences and work style.

These individuals organize and supervise daily standup meetings, backlog grooming and sprint planning sessions, sprint demos, and client budget reviews. They are at the forefront of resolving any intra-team issues, and they are the first to attack any client questions or concerns. We don’t rely on them to necessarily resolve every issue that comes up, but having a fast-acting conduit to detailed engagement information is vital to preserving the health of any client relationship.

A good PM knows their team and their client. Our most successful examples wind up running not just our team, but teams of totally separate client resources as well. They evolve into trusted advisors with detailed domain and solution knowledge that they leverage to the marked benefit of their client’s product and system aspirations.

The duties of our PM’s vary widely, based on each client’s needs. For a staff augmentation engagement at a client with a solid technical management infrastructure, our PM may spend only a few hours a week with the team. Project-based engagements, however, where we are running a full dedicated team, often mean the PM is spending around 20 hours each week or more with the client. PM’s are typically billable resources, but we value this role so highly that we’ve been known to self-fund PM presence (on a light-touch basis) if necessary, just to keep that ‘early warning’ mechanism in place.

In short, all hail the PM ! Sometimes we have to work to educate our clients on PM benefits, but the rewards seem always to be worth the effort. Eager to hear any of your comments on this role.