As a software development company, forming project teams for our client ideas is a core part of MindK’s DNA. Every new project has its special nature, so we try to adapt our teams for each of them.

We consider people to be the greatest asset in every software development project.  Clear-cut project team roles and responsibilities help the project to move forward and multiply chances of success for the client’s business.

In this article, we reveal our approach to setting up the project team roles and responsibilities in Agile software development process.

Regardless of whether you use this resource to build your in-house team or contact us for help with project development, by the time you finish reading you’ll understand each of the core project roles and the special considerations you need to achieve your dream-team.

Note:

The role of each team member can be adjusted for project needs. Depending on the project size, one role may be assigned to more than a single individual, but a single person can combine two.

Product Owner

Product owner (PO) is the one who has a vision of the final product and who conveys this vision to the project team.

In our experience, Product Owner is the client representative. Oftentimes, PO is introduced by C-level executives who are more than passionate about the final result and know exactly why the product should exist. The more important the project is for the company, the higher PO’s position in the business.

Anyway,

the Product Owner is a bridge between the project team and stakeholders.

The responsibilities of the Product Owner differ depending on the development methodology the team follows.

For example,

when we take on a project, the Product Owner becomes an integral part of the team. He/she forms product backlog by deciding what features the product should have, prioritizing and re-prioritizing them in line with the business strategy and objectives.

The Agile team approach is gaining our attraction with every passing day, as its main benefit is speed and transparency, and because the team and Product Owner are involved in the process constantly. As a result, time is not wasted waiting until the Product Owner has reviewed questions from the team.

Project Sponsor

A sponsor is crucial for the success of the project, as this role is responsible for everything concerning budget and financial management.

Generally, Project Sponsor is a person from the senior management who has the ability and trust to take on financial decisions. He/she approves all the additional expenses that may appear during project development (e.g. change requests).

Sponsor should be aware of the emerging issues and requests on the project from regular  communication with the Project Manager.

Thus,

Project Sponsor helps to resolve financial conflicts and remove financial obstacles that may occur throughout the project.

It is highly recommended (and we have already come to this from first-hand experience) to clarify the workflow, communication methods and maintain the boundaries of responsibility from day one. It eliminates blind spots and time-wasting in the middle of the project and helps to build a relationship of trust.

The authority of the Project Sponsor is crucial for the project workflow.

Note:

In the case that the Sponsor has no or limited authority to approve expenses, then it will be difficult for a team to run the project efficiently. Moreover, the sponsor who is poorly engaged in the project can also become a barrier to success.

Stakeholders

Unlike other roles in the team, this role involves a broad scope of people, internal or external to the project or organization, who have an interest in the project, its goals, impact, and outcomes.

In a broad sense,

Stakeholder is anyone who takes part in a project or is influenced by its outcomes.

For a better understanding of this large group of people, let’s split them into three main groups:

  1. Primary stakeholders are people who are directly affected (positively or negatively) by project decisions or outcomes. Shareholders, top managers, team members, strategic clients/partners – anyone with functional or financial interest in the given project.
  2. Secondary stakeholders are people with an indirect interest to the project, who are still influential. They could be clients, vendors, competitors, government, creditors etc.
  3. Key stakeholders possess an authority to dictate whether a project is a success is not, as they directly affect the project and vise versa. They may belong to both primary or secondary group.

The main role of stakeholders is to provide the team with the required information, as needed.

Rather than focusing on one subset of stakeholders, prioritize all stakeholders and focus your attention on the “most important” at this point in time. Otherwise, you will drown in suggestions from dozens of people, and the project may never launch.

Note:

Your “most important” stakeholders should be open for communication, available and powerful enough to influence the project outcome.

After that, specify their requirements and intended outcomes in order to successfully navigate project relationships.

Project Manager

Project Manager (PM) is a person responsible for planning, organizing, managing (budget, scope, schedule, risk, and quality) on all phases of a project.

PMs tend to remove the blockers that occur during the project and manage all meetings and communication.

In short,

Project Manager is a person with an exact answer to the questions ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘where’, ‘when’ and ‘why’ on the project.

If you follow the original Agile practices, your team doesn’t involve Project Manager. The responsibilities are shared among other team members, Scrum Master, Product Owner etc.

In our experience at MindK, Project Manager is a critical link in the communication chain between the client and a remote development team. That is why Project Manager guides each project in our company.

This role involves managing project risks, financial performance, ensuring the proper resources, communicating with the stakeholders, and motivating everyone to remain focused on reaching the project goals. Plus, when we take on Agile projects Project Manager takes the role of a Scrum Master.

As a Scrum Master, Project Manager attends daily meetings with the team members and the Product Owner, divides project into phases, controls whether the sprint objectives are completed and maintains the streamline flow of the project.

Although lots of companies going Agile try to eliminate this role, a need to have a responsible person to mitigate risks, remove the obstacles and guide the project to success doesn’t go anywhere.

Product Manager

The roles and responsibilities of Project and Product manager may be confusing at first sight.

Here’s the deal:

Product is anything offered to a market to solve a problem or satisfy a need,

while

project is a temporary event aimed at creating a product (or providing a service) within specified timeframes.

Note that:

  • A product is developed within the context of a project or even several projects (product’s life cycle may occur within a series of projects).
  • A product, unlike a project, has no clear definition of what should be developed.
  • A product has no clear deadlines because it is developed and improved constantly to meet the changing needs of customer.

According to these differences, the role of Product Manager involves the activities different from those of the Project Manager.

Product Manager takes a complete responsibility for the continuous success of a product under development during the whole product lifecycle.

It means that Product Manager takes a prospective approach and decides in what direction the product will grow. He gathers and prioritizes product and customer requirements, works with marketing in order to ensure revenue and customer satisfaction, delivers the operating plan, and creates and maintains product roadmap.

Note:

When dealing with multiple projects across different geographic locations or several teams do not substitute this role with Project Manager or Business Analyst.

Business Analyst

Business requirements are the basis for creating web/mobile applications.

Business Analyst (BA) is a person focused on business system investigation, identification of options for improving, and matching business needs with software capabilities.

In other words,

Business Analyst is a bridge between business ideas and business opportunities.

Among the primary responsibilities of BA are:

  • Extracting and anticipating the requirements of the business, as incomplete and/or improper requirements may do a bad turn to the project.
  • Limiting the requirements by holding the attention on the critical business needs, not users’ personal preferences or some non-essential change requests.
  • Transforming business requirements into technical requirements.

The role of Business Analyst is hotly disputed. For instance, Scrum teams do not consider Business Analyst as one of the necessary software development team roles.

We are convinced that lack of Business Analyst for some projects may lead to failure. Don’t hand this role over to Product Owner, as he/she is going to have a very hard time communicating daily on tech details with developers when PO is a business representative, not a tech expert.

Thus, we at MindK consider Business Analysis to be a big shot in both Agile and Waterfall  projects.

UI/UX Designer

Simply defined,

UI represents the way the things look, thought UX is the way things work.

While User Interface (UI) design is dedicated to how the application is laid out, User Experience (UX) focuses on the way the end user interacts with the app during the customer journey.

ui ux
Source: thecdm.ca

Basically,

UI/UX designer is turning the project vision into a visual thing.

In MindK, UI/UX designer participates is generating original graphic designs,  user interface elements, creating UI mockups and prototypes which illustrate how the app should work and look like, and determining and troubleshooting the UX problems.

One thing to keep in mind:

The designer should have the ability to collaborate with business representatives and development team during the whole project life cycle.

Development Team Member

As developers are working on building the necessary product features, they are the ones who affect the performance of the whole team the most.

Apart from actually coding, the development team is usually responsible for making time estimates according to technical requirements and communicating the status of the features to the Project Manager.

Make it possible for developers to review each others code, considering ways to make work easier and faster. Bringing different experiences and learning from each other contributes to the project success.

Quality Assurance Engineers

On a par with development, design, and business analysis, Quality Assurance engineers guaranty that the application meets the business requirements. Moreover, they guard it from bugs, errors, and defects.

In case the testing is poorly done, the whole experience of discovering the product by real users may fail. Thus, no matter how well you planned and organized workflow within your team, the reputation of the company can be affected by the final result.

So Quality Assurance is far more significant than just detecting bugs and errors.

Switch it up

It is clear that of each team, an Agile team is no exception and needs time to mature before delivering great results. But as soon as everybody understands their roles within a team and another’s strengths, the whole development process becomes smooth and efficient.


Source: Atlassian Agile Coach

When starting a project, make sure you have all the required personnel resources for the project. Take control of defining the key software development roles for each team member and let everyone in your squad know exactly what is expected of him OR you may enlist the help of an experienced software development company.

Anyway, do the work and believe in your team. Those people are the ones who will guide you to your goals.

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