I’ve worked on a lot of software projects, both online and in the gaming world, as a project manager.  “Project manager” is one of those vague-sounding jobs that a lot of people don’t understand.  I could go on and on about how a project manager is about delivering a quality product within a determined timeframe, but ultimately, the project manager’s job is to communicate.

Project managers make sure everyone on the team has the necessary information to get the job done.  If a marketing guy needs information on the ship date of a product, it’s the project manager’s job to give him a reasonable estimate.  Likewise, if design or scope of the project changes, the engineers need to know.  Any area where information needs to flow from one person to another ultimately falls under the project manager’s duty.

This is why you often hear a project manager’s role is about scheduling.  Ultimately scheduling is a way for all stakeholders in the project – from the person footing the bill to the person waiting for the product – know when to expect things to get done.  Everyone’s work can be tied to a schedule, and again, this falls under the project manager’s jurisdiction.

In a small team, people can use tools like Fellowstream to view each other’s schedules.  This means the project manager’s job can be split among everyone in the group.  However, in a larger group, you need someone to be responsible for any slips in communication.  You can’t expect 1 person in a team of 60, for example, to keep up with changes from day to day.

So the next time you wonder what keeps your project manager up at night, remember, it’s all about communication.  From expectation management to getting the job done, it can’t happen without everyone working in sync, and that only happens when we all know what to expect from our fellow teammates.

-Deborah Fike

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