Random Acts of IT Project Management

Project Management for Information Technology

Different Management Roles on a Project

Posted by iammarchhare on 1 June 2009

TechRepublic did an article under IT Leadership called “Keep the three management roles in an IT project separate” written by Rick Freedman.  Freedman argues that there are 3 roles in every engagement: project manager, technical manager and relationship manager.  Personally, I would have divided this into 2 roles, and some of the comments reflect that as well.

However, in the thread comments, jayl posted a division consisting of project manager, technical manager and business manager/analyst, which is even better, IMO.  I agree with his/her assessment that all 3 need to maintain the relationship.  Furthermore, it points out that at least 2 people need to be filling some combination of these roles.  This is similar to my recent posting that sometimes a PM is also playing a BA.

This is similar to what I posted before that, while a technical project manager can be a legitimate role, but that companies often don’t understand what they are really looking for when they look for a “project manager”.  If you want someone senior that will also code, then you will be left with no one running the project.

Essentially, I see:

1. Relationship manager – product manager, marketing or IT director on internal projects.

2. Project manager – in charge of the project and processes that get it done.

3. Technical manager or technical lead – manages the nitty-gritty low-level technical details.

4. Resource manager – manages personnel, vacations, allocations, performance reviews, etc.

These will likely be combined at some level, especially in smaller shops.

If you have a product manager, then some of the customer relationship management is taken off the others.  However, it is best to be mindful that all this means is that the primary responsibility for the relationship management is shifted, but that does not mean the customer relationship is everyone’s business.

The project manager does what she/he needs to get the project done and within sane parameters of scope, budget and duration.  The project manager is also responsible for putting in place the proper items to ensure quality.

The technical manager/lead makes technical recommendations for direction of project.  This may be an architect, senior developer or senior SME.

The often overlooked role, is the resource manager.  That may or may not be a supervisor or a technical manager.  I distinguish the resource/personnel manager as separate, as often there is a functional manager that people report to in a matrixed environment.  If the organization is projectized, then the functional and project manager role are usually filled by one person.

This still doesn’t eliminate a technical manager, though, and I would balk at combining technical lead, resource manager and project manager on the same project, unless that is the only project going.  Even then, it is going to keep someone really busy and one role is going to distract from the others at various points in the project.  It is still best to separate the roles as much as possible if you want your projects to succeed.

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