Software companies worldwide have adopted remote working policies. While many had a remote-first approach, most have now moved to remote-only. This has highlighted the need for strategic, agile, and qualified project managers to manage any unnecessary chaos and ensure delivery.

By Blake Esrechowitz, operations director at Basalt

So, when asking: “do we really need project managers?”, the simple answer is yes. But that doesn’t mean project managers add value automatically.

Project managers (PMs) add an integral layer of accountability in a company structure, freeing up team members, such as managers, developers, designers etc. to focus on the things they should, increasing overall productivity. However, if the PM loses sight of this, it can lead to bottlenecks, confusion, and team disruption.

In a dynamic software environment, a strong, confident PM needs to understand their role within the team and adapt a lighter, agile approach.

So how can PMs provide value in uncertain times?

* Ensuring alignment – The PM ensures everyone continues to move along in the same direction, as a cohesive unit. I like to think of the Project Manager as the glue that holds the team together on their respective projects. They maintain harmony in the team by continually disseminating information, feedback, changes and optimisations within the project, while ensuring best practice is adhered to.

* Adapting to trends – Perhaps one of the most critical qualities a PM embodies is the ability to adapt to an ever-changing climate. With an increase in virtual teams and ways of working – and the rapid growth of digital technologies – the only constant is change; the quicker a project manager can adapt, the better. An extreme example is the pandemic that we have all been navigating. The whole world had to change, without warning. The way we interact, work, and communicate dramatically shifted. During the initial shock, we were all finding our feet, trying to figure things out, but more and more data was becoming available (and still is) on how to navigate the crisis from a work standpoint. Utilizing this info, and harnessing it to support and guide the team, falls on the PM, enabling teammates to work seamlessly, focusing on what they should so that they can continue to deliver.

* Building and coordinating a winning team – PMs need to understand their projects on a deep, granular level. The PM should work hard at building a team of people who are super passionate and really invested in what they do. Coordinating a team is a subtle process. A strong PM knows not to throw people at problems when things get tough or challenging. Hiring additional people often creates further complexity. As the saying goes “too many cooks spoil the broth”. The PM needs to empower the small, cross-functional team they support to push the boundaries, solve problems, and create incredible work.

* Maximising effectiveness – Finally, creating the space for team members to work optimally is fundamental. It is key to ensure each person’s time on the project is maximised. To achieve this, a PM should be comfortable acknowledging their limitations (even celebrating them), and then coordinating a team of the very best in their respective disciplines. All while creating and sustaining an environment where they all succeed, together. None of this can be achieved without having strong soft skills, such as solid communication, empathy, leadership abilities and patience. Soft skills are as important, if not more important, than the PMs technical abilities.

The value of a good PM is ultimately a measure of the team’s productivity, which comes down to focus, accountability and people’s wellbeing. If we get that right, we gear ourselves to thrive in uncertain times.