Does Scrum really make the Project Manager redundant?

By Aart Jan Eenkhoorn

Purely in accordance with the letter of Scrum as an Agile methodology, the collaboration between Product Owner and (scrum) team makes the need for the classic Project Manager redundant. 

A Scrum Master and Product Owner, together with the scrum team, ensure that this task – just like 'testing' for example – is tackled within the team. For this 'self-organizing group of people', direct interaction is central to their mutual cooperation and coordination with stakeholders in the immediate environment. 

Maakt Scrum de Projectmanager écht overbodig?

The Scrum Master guides and facilitates this self-managing team that works on achieving the results and ensures that the scrum processes are followed so that this form of collaboration will actually contribute to the desired goals. In addition, the Scrum Master also helps the Product Owner who bears enormous responsibility as a 'mandated client' for the result to be delivered.

As a crucial link between team and stakeholders, this Product Owner is responsible for the Product Backlog and prioritizing functionalities to deliver results that provide the most added value for Business; users and possibly also customers.

Is a Project Manager really superfluous?

Reasoning from this theory, the tendency arises to answer this in agreement, but unfortunately practice shows that this is not always sufficient to achieve the desired results... 

Depending on the type of organization, other aspects are important to make this intended change successful. 

Classic, formal(er) organizations often prefer to realize changes via waterfall methods (such as Prince2) due to their need for 'control'. Yet there you also gradually see the need to become more agile ('Agile') in this ever-changing world. When looking for a more agile approach, a Project Manager with knowledge of Scrum and Agile will be of great added value to guide the organizational transition without losing sight of the desired result. 

Concrete examples of this are that the Project Manager guides this (new form of) collaboration and change as a kind of Scrum Coach or acts as a (delegated) Product Owner to bring the various departments within the Business together to create one Product Backlog and thus towards one result. to send. 

In large Agile environments you see that there is a need to manage coherence between different expertise and dependencies. Despite the effort to reduce complexity and autonomy for these teams, in practice these teams often encounter dependencies with other scrum teams or management departments (Operations). While a 'scrum-of-scrums' can be fine for coordinating more general dependencies, a good Project Manager offers added value by creating the right focus and direction. By managing these dependencies towards all stakeholders and putting the various user stories on the agenda of the scrum teams at the right times, the Project Manager ensures that they contribute coherently to the ultimate goal. The main challenge for the Project Manager is that he must be aware of a fixed budget (team size) and set time (number of sprints) and that the Client and other stakeholders are included in prioritizing functionalities and steering towards a flexible scope. 

Within IT, it is noticeable that scrum teams become agile (Agile) relatively quickly, but it often takes longer for the business to properly adapt to this working method. Where a scrum team thinks in increments (results) within iterations (sprints), the Business lacks a certain Agile awareness and often still thinks in terms of scope, milestones, costs and lead times... 

As a Project Manager you will then have to manage less on the daily activities, but will have to pay more attention to (personal) interaction and connecting these different views. The focus is then on streamlining this mutual collaboration and directing communication to properly involve all stakeholders. 

In conclusion, we can say that the Project Manager is not redundant, but necessary! 

Depending on the type of organization, the interpretation of this role can and will be situationally different: the Agile Project Manager must be agile to successfully manage changes in different environments. 

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