When determining what makes a successful project, a lot of different aspects might come to mind — a clear vision, defined outcomes and expectations, known goals, etc. However, each of these has clarity as a common denominator. Everyone needs to be on the same page regarding what should happen, why, and how it will impact the product and/or the business.
Team members need to know what they need to do in any initiative, so the deliverables are clear. To achieve this, the easiest thing to do is to define roles at your inception meeting and then follow through on your agreements. What are the roles that need defining? Are all of them always needed? Keep reading to find out more!
Before we get started, it’s important to remember that the role in any given initiative isn’t the same as the position you’ve been hired for. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you might be a high-level manager assigned to deliver fresh coffee and pizza to the development team every morning. Quite the opposite!
This is an opportunity for anyone to step up and demonstrate talents that qualify this person for a different, even higher position! Every team and project will be different and will pose a unique set of challenges. Before we focus on building your optimal team, let’s first look at a typical set of roles that will appear in most of the IT projects in an agile environment.
There are three core roles as defined by the Scrum Guide — developer, product owner/manager, and scrum master.
Developers create the product that your team delivers. Depending on the product, developers might include designers, writers, or programmers. They follow guidance and work towards a specific product goal.
The product owner is the person running the show at the high level. They’re responsible for what the project needs to accomplish and has the final say in all matters that involve facing the end user. A successful product owner focuses on maximizing the value that a product can deliver.
The scrum master watches over the team’s efficiency and ensures optimal use of the agile scrum framework. I often say that the ultimate goal of any scrum master is to find that the team no longer needs them and it’s time to move on to another group.
Now, let’s circle back to the developer/team member role and break it down to all the possible variations of it.
If a product manager/owner is responsible for deciding what to do, then the project manager is tasked with making sure that the work goes according to plan. This role will also monitor, visualize, and report progress so that everyone can see whether the project is proceeding as planned.
A program manager is an external project manager who helps the product owner/manager navigate the organization and identify what teams are needed to complete the initiative. Picture an old-time telephone operator who connects the cables to make calls happen. This person makes sure the right connections are kept and reports progress.
While most projects will simply require you to sit down and code with a little bit of planning, in larger organizations such an approach can have disastrous results. An architect can step in and ensure that the coding is done in a responsible, unified, and standardized manner. They also try to reuse as many existing components as possible.
This role helps the team define how the tracking for the project should work. An analyst then crafts the right impact hypothesis and tracking dashboard in the tracking suite of choice. This person should have a deep understanding of how tracking works and how to best implement an experiment to be able to tell whether it was successful or not later down the line.
This role works on designing an attractive interface, but also optimal, intuitive flows to make sure users can easily navigate the software. They make sure users can easily move from one screen to another and find the solutions to their needs.
Individuals with this assignment make sure the project is delivered to its specification, free of bugs. This might mean manual testing or overseeing automated testing tools and seeking additional ways of delivering the highest quality of the project.
Good copy can make or break a product and a poor, half-baked translation can leave the user feeling not cared for. Sadly, this was one of the greatest challenges with Skype, especially the Polish copy. Because of this, it’s vital to ensure someone on the team will focus on choosing the perfect words for your user-facing aspects of the product.
Integration usually refers to someone who integrates new code into the codebase and makes sure it all works. Integration engineering may also be a role, where one verifies whether the new project fits the whole product in terms of design and language, as well as that all the documentation, manual, and training videos are up to date.
Very often the process of releasing a new increment presents a challenge. Sometimes it’s about the technology, sometimes about the process (i.e. getting approvals from Play/App Store), and other times about crafting the right marketing copy and screenshots. Either automatically or manually, this needs to be done and done with care and might require a dedicated person.
You might be thinking to yourself, do I really need all these roles on a project? The short answer is no. The selection and availability of roles will differ substantially depending on the organization.
I have worked at small startups where I felt like I was handling these roles myself, but also at large organizations that had decided departments for each function. As the product manager, make sure that you identify the roles that you absolutely need and communicate the required headcount.
Try to determine the minimal number of people needed to deliver the initiative’s end goal. Of course, a frontend can be put together by the developers without a designer, but that’ll probably look and feel bad. On the other hand, if you are redesigning a registration form, perhaps you can reuse all the strings and translations from the previous iteration.
The more people you have, the more conflicts and more potential failures might arise. Also, more people requires more resources, which might be difficult to secure. In general, it’s useful to take a less is more approach with projects.
When exploring the world of IT product development, you’ll find out that all the needed roles and processes will likely already be there for you to use. The biggest thing you need to do is check to make sure that everyone you need is available and that expectations are clearly defined. As this article shows, a project requires a lot of different parts working together to deliver a finished product.
Good luck crafting your products with your teams!
Featured image source: IconScout
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