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A Day in the Life of...an Agile Project Manager


In February, We’re trying to break open the black box of ‘dev’ work.

We’ll bring you exclusive insights from experts inside, outside & adjacent to the dev world through our Day in the Life series.

This week, hear from James*, an Agile Project Manager & Scrum Master at a B2B SaaS provider.

James shares his top priorities, major challenges & what he’d change if he had a magic wand at work.

Q: What’s your role?

“I'm a project manager, so I manage [SaaS] implementation projects. I do a bit of BA [business analysis] work as well when needed.

I'm across a few of the systems that we have. So I jump from team to team.”

Many of us wear many hats across a single role. It’s a key aspect of today’s cross-functional team environments. But just because it’s common, doesn’t make it easy!

Q: Which internal stakeholders do you work with?

“[I work with] 13 engineers, a few product owners & product managers.

I also work with multiple Business Analysts and the [other work stream] project manager.”

James, like many middle managers, engages with a wide range of stakeholders with diverse needs & challenges.

And don’t forget, these are just the internal stakeholders James is working with daily. He goes on to explain the client-facing aspects of his role.

Q: What’s your top priority?

“Managing the team and communicating with the client.”

As a key liaison with clients during an implementation, James needs to be the duck on the pond: cool, calm & collected above the surface while everything underneath is moving rapidly.

Product Manager Tania* spoke to us last week about navigating the challenges of client interaction too. Read the full article here.

Q: What’s the one activity you can never neglect?

To keep customers happy & projects on track, James depends on a range of other stakeholders for information & most importantly, delivery of work.

“Staying on the back of the engineers, getting things done.

We need engineers to help with better estimation too.”

Here James touches on one of the key aspects of customer satisfaction: managing expectations.

With more accurate estimations, James can communicate realistic timeframes to customers, keeping their expectations in line with reality.

Q: What’s the hardest part about being a Project Manager?

“Resource planning, trying to manage the capacity of people.”

Now we’re getting into the root cause of James’ underlying estimation issues.

Without a clear picture of his team’s capacity (including existing workload), it’s impossible to accurately plan resources & estimate timelines for new projects.

Q: Is there something in your job you wish you had more time to do?

“Trying to manage our time; how to prioritise what needs to be done.

It's been pretty hectic. We’ve had a lot of new implementations coming through.”

Effective task prioritisation can be the difference between project success and failure.

Employing simple frameworks like the MoSCoW prioritisation technique can be a practical approach to achieving this.

Nail your priorities: The MoSCoW technique

Overview of the MoSCoW prioritisation approach. Image credit: TechTarget

For any given project, workshop with your team to put project requirements into 1 of 4 categories:

  • Must have - what’s necessary to finish the project?

  • Should have - what’s important, but not necessary, to finish?

  • Could have - think of these as ‘nice to haves’ - minimal impact if they’re not part of the project

  • Will not have - what’s definitely NOT a priority given this project’s timeline?

This quick exercise can help identify which requirements need to be estimated & planned first.

OK, let’s get back to James!

Q: If you could wave a magic wand to align People, Processes & Technology, what would that look like?

Turns out, James had two wishes:

“I’d like to have seamless interaction, so I don't have to rely on emails & phone calls.”

Adding to the complexity of aligning the team, prioritising activity & getting stuff done, communication methods are also a challenge.

Caught between phone calls & emails with clients while trying to work with the Dev team in Jira, James’ interaction with stakeholders becomes messy.

And James’ second wish?

“Roll up multiple projects into one dashboard so I can report to the C-Suite. It’s easier for them to self-serve than ask every time they need something.”

Much like Product Manager Tania, James spends a significant amount of time reporting on progress to various stakeholders.

Flipping the script to a self-serve model via intuitive dashboarding would give valuable time back for delivering projects.

Up Next: A Day in the Life of an ASX100 CTO

In the next edition of ‘A Day in the Life of…’, you’ll hear from an ASX100 CTO.

Don’t miss it!

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    *customer name changed