Project Managers don’t always receive all the credit for the work they do. They are an essential element of any project, and without a solid PM, all brilliant ideas would not be turned into successful projects.
On board hero/dot, we have our “jack of all trades”, Tomek Franczak, who has been with us for 2 years. In today’s article, Tomek wants to share his experiences and insights about Project Management. Let’s hear him out!
1. Diffusion of roles in Project Management
During his work as a Project Manager (which he has been for over 7 years!), Tomek rarely mentions straightforwardness in his job. According to him, the role of the Project Manager is more of a confusing dance. Although he concentrated on Project Management, he often simultaneously dealt with the duties of a Technical Product Owner, or Product Owner. However, he points out that it is not by accident that these roles intertwine. Tomek had the opportunity to work both as a PM and PO (Project Manager; Product Owner), so he will explain to us what these positions are characterised by in the work of an organisation:
If a project has to be well-organised, well-defined and completed with great precision, a Project Manager must be part of the team. Using scientific management, technical decision-making, and vision execution, a Project Manager knows how to plan, carry out, control, and deliver a project on time.
A Product Owner helps you bring your idea for a product to life by bringing a vision and an agile approach. Due to their adaptable attitude, clear vision, and ability to make decisions, the PO function is perfect for projects with a broad scope and set of standards.
2. The organisation of work in Project Management
Contrary to appearances, Tomek is a very chaotic man (but very creative at the same time), so he resorts to tool support in his work.
In addition to a notebook, marker, or pen, some soft and hard skills are useful in Project Management. In our previous definition of a PM, we defined them as a person who is part of the team and responsible for the execution and delivery of the project on time. To accomplish this, faultless communication within the team is necessary, both written in correspondence and verbal during all Scrum ceremonies. The Project Manager is the leader, and the leader needs to organize communication within the team in a sensible way.
3. Necessary skills
Once you’ve mastered communication and how to talk to people, it’s worth moving on and thinking about what to say to people – namely, learning the basics of managing people and motivating them. Even if you are an introvert, you have a good chance to become a motivating and supportive leader whom the team will follow and under whom they will accomplish tasks. The success of your project depends on the involvement of your competitors.
Moreover, when organizing work on a project, it is very important to answer some seemingly easy-sounding questions:
- What a project actually is?
- Is everything, as reality sometimes wants to suggest to us, a project?
- What is the difference between a project and a process?
The project has, above all, a clear, specific goal to achieve in a given, finite time. As a Project Manager, always, everywhere, even during your morning coffee, you need to know WHAT your project is for. You have to know the goal and focus on it — not on putting out as many fires as possible or replying to as many e-mails as possible, but focus on everyday activities that step by step bring you closer to your goal.
4. Scrum & Project Management
Scrum methods have been around in the IT world for a very long time. Tomek has worked as a Scrum Master on many projects, both at hero/dot and earlier in his career. He does not consider himself to be an EXACT Project Manager who, in accordance with the art of scrum, always follows all methodologies. First of all, Scrum is a set of good practices, an approach to creating new products and projects that makes it easier for you and the whole team to work in, but it is definitely not a rigid framework that you have to stick to.
Tomek recalls what Andy Brandt once told him:
“Scrum is not about fitting every project into a rigid Scrum framework; Scrum is supposed to be a certain set of guidelines to help you sort it out, although you should always adapt them to the conditions that prevail in the project.”
On top of that, Tomek states that Scrum simply does not apply to all projects. This may depend a lot on the specifics of the project or even on the arrangements with the client regarding the methodology with which the project is to be conducted. Tomek has dealt with projects in the past where Scrum was not used at all, was used but not clearly established, or the Scrum Guide was 95% to 99% present.
However, there are certain features of Scrum that Tomek considers necessary in his work as a Project Manager. First of all, the routine of daily meetings. It is necessary to discuss the work done so far, the problems that have arisen, and the internal affairs of the development team. Only through daily communication can the team stay on the same page.
Planning teamwork in two-week sprints turns out to be the most optimal for project work. At hero/dot, together with TISA Group, we have created our own version of SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) called SPARK. It is a set of organizational and workflow patterns for implementing agile practices in our project, mainly based on SAFe, but with our own twist on it.
Tomek also knows from experience that it is important to place Scrum meetings well in developers’ time slots. This is always a bit of a juggling act when arranging a project, and it strongly affects the work of developers, who very often do not like meetings in the morning, when they are most effective.
This is a bit of a contradiction when developers like to have meetings in the afternoon and business teams prefer meetings in the morning, but the Project Manager’s trick is to find the most optimal time slot that will allow the most important meetings to take place without any obstacles.
5. Certifications in Project Management
In the case of Tomek, his role as Project Manager did not result from completing any courses or obtaining certificates, but from experience working in project teams. As we mentioned earlier, Tomek worked in the past as a Product Owner, but also as a Business Analyst (handyman!). And it is this experience that Tomek puts above any available certificate.
Obtaining certificates to become a Project Manager does not necessarily have to be the beginning of this career. It is completely different in the case of Scrum Master, where basic theoretical knowledge is essential.
There are various PM courses available online that teach various Project Managing standards such as using management tools, presenting a project timeline, creating Gantt charts, or estimating a budget. In a way, you need to get to know the project life, but it can be done either purely theoretically through courses, or empirically by being part of project teams.
So what does it take to be a Project Manager? Certainly a lot of work and effort. As we read from Tomek’s experience, in his IT career, he got to know project work inside and out from various perspectives — technical, business, and management. The diffusion of roles in project work can often happen, but it means joint responsibility for reaching the goals and success of a project.
If you think of becoming a Project Manager, DO IT, as there are various ways of entering this career path, via an empirical study of project work, or theoretical courses. If you do become a Project Manager, maybe we will see you soon on our team with Tomek!