The Role of a Project Manager in Agile Transformation

September 18, 2020
Marcelo Garza

Project Managers have a wide range of responsibilities when working on a project. They oversee planning the project, create a schedule and timeline, execute each phase, manage budgets, serve as the liaison among all stakeholders, and also troubleshoot when something goes wrong. 

On top of all this, they are also in charge of completing any other tasks that get added to their plate along the way. As such, a Project Manager (PM) must be very organized and detail-oriented. They also need to have great people skills because, at the end of the day, this person is responsible for leading the team and communicating with all involved parties.

In this article, we explore how a Project Manager adds value to the organization and what the Project Manager’s role is in Agile transformation

What It Takes to Be A Good Project Manager

The Project Management Institute describes the role of a project manager as someone who acts as an agent of change. Someone who “makes project goals their own and uses their skills and expertise to inspire a sense of shared purpose within the project team.”

Project Managers also serve as leaders. Aside from ensuring the project is delivered on time and within the agreed-upon budget, they also encourage their teams and inspire their clients. They need to solve problems as they arise with strong critical-thinking capabilities while also possessing strong communication skills to ensure everyone remains informed, motivated, and onboard.

A good PM delivers a final product on time and on budget while meeting or exceeding client expectations. Tracing projects back to business goals is becoming increasingly necessary for project managers.

The Role of a Project Manager in Agile

The Agile framework focuses on self-organization and team empowerment rather than defining specific roles, which is why there is no need for a Project Manager in the traditional sense; the role is pretty much covered between all the existing roles.

Anyone who's ever taken an Agile class or training has heard of the defined roles of Scrum Master, Product Owner, and development team in the Scrum framework, which makes no mention of the Project Manager role. Personally, I have taken five Agile classes from different places and never once have heard the word “Project Manager”. So, what is the role of a Project Manager in Agile? Is there really no use for a PM in an Agile setting? Is there nothing they can do to add value to an Agile project?

An Agile organization can- and does- function well without a Project Manager. However, there is a huge potential for a PM skill set to add value to an organization, specifically on large projects. I have worked in QA Testing across various complex projects for the past five years, and it is clear to me that a PM can greatly impact both the journey and outcome of the project in regard to budget and risk management, as well as coordination between multiple scrum teams.

In an Agile environment, a Project Manager can add value by managing key aspects of every project, overseeing budgets, risks, etc., especially on large-scale projects for enterprise organizations. Having a Project Manager also frees up the Scrum Master to focus solely on his or her core functions

Take, for example, the below chart from Ken Rubin and his article “What Happens to the Project Manager when Doing Agile Development with Scrum?”  While the PM role no longer exists in a traditional sense, you can see how the tasks and roles normally assigned to them still exist within the system but are spread out throughout the team. 

As a result, the person who would normally act as the PM, can work very well as the Product Owner, the Scrum Master, or on the Development Team, depending on his or her background and specific skillset.

Project Management Activity Product Owner Scrum Master Development Team Other Manager
Scope Macro level   Sprint level  
Time Macro level Helps team manage time Sprint Level  
Cost   Story / Task Estimating  
Team     Formation


Get Started With Your Agile Transformation Journey

Agile transformation has become a priority for many businesses looking to stay competitive in today's fast-paced and ever-changing market. However, achieving agility is not a one-size-fits-all approach. There’s no secret formula for a successful Agile transformation.

Achieving the kind of agility needed to meet the demands of today’s business landscape involves more than just structural changes and adopting new processes. Agile transformation is a complete cultural shift. 

Project Managers play a key role in the successful implementation of Agile methods and in achieving true organizational transformation. They enable faster delivery of projects, encourage collaboration, empower teams, and establish a culture of continuous improvement. All of these actions are needed to achieve the large-scale cultural shift needed to drive enterprise agility. 

If you are looking to scale Agile principles within your organization, our team at Praecipio has you covered. After supporting hundreds of enterprise clients in scaling Agile practices within their organizations, we have published several value-packed resources to get you started with your Agile transformation journey:

As an Atlassian Platinum Partner Specialized in Agile-at-Scale, Praecipio is here to help. Book a technical call and we can discuss how we can enable enterprise agility within your organization.

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