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Thought Leadership

5 things every project manager should know when they start working with a development team

Smooth digital production demands team unity.

My first move as a recent grad “adulting” into the real world was snagging a project management internship at Voltage Advertising + Design. The title of project manager is pretty self explanatory isn’t it? Your job is to manage projects and make sure they get completed. But I quickly learned that there’s a lot more to it. In order to complete a project efficiently and effectively it is important for a project manager to have a good relationship with all teams.

With that in mind, I sat down with Steven Cook, President and Chief Operating Officer at Voltage Advertising + Design, to gain a better understanding of what it’s like for developers to work with a project manager.

Steven provided me with some insights from his experience as a developer on what he thinks project managers should know when they begin to work with a development team.

Communication is key

Some key responsibilities of a project manager are making sure your client is getting what they ask for, protecting the internal team, and removing any roadblocks the development team may face. Examples of roadblocks include a lack of clarity around what the client wants, not having access to a particular system or resource, and not understanding work made by the design team.

Overcoming these roadblocks demands strong communication. Without good communication, a project manager could fail at all these tasks. Developers don’t expect project managers to understand 100% of their jargon, but they do expect them to understand enough to be able to communicate effectively with each other and with their client. A project manager should feel fully capable and enabled to keep asking questions of their development team until both sides fully understand what is expected of one another.

Project managers help with stress

A good project manager isn’t just able to interpret what their client is saying and pass along that information to developers. A good project manager also has the ability to interpret what everyone is saying and communicate that in a positive and constructive way. A project manager can essentially act as a “shield” between their team and their client. Another way a project manager can help reduce stress is by constantly reminding the development team that they are their biggest champions.

A good relationship is essential

There’s no denying that both project managers and developers have fundamentally different skill sets. For them to unite and deliver work that is both technically amazing and exactly what the client wants, they need to have a good relationship. A good relationship between a project manager and developer is a relationship in which both teams feel comfortable providing feedback with one another, regardless if it’s good or bad.

If a project manager and developer have a good relationship, then a project manager won’t be afraid to give the developer work, and the developer won’t be afraid to send work to the project manager. When this happens a project manager and developer build a mutual trust, at which point they become highly effective as a team.

Mistakes do happen

We shouldn’t live in an environment in which we feel embarrassed for making mistakes. We are all human, so that means that we are all going to make mistakes at one point or another!

When you do make a mistake as a project manager, talk with your development team about what went right and what went wrong. By doing this, you can really analyze why the mistake occurred. Understanding the process of how you got to that point helps alleviate some frustration. By working together with the development team you can help avoid making the same mistake in the future, which becomes more of a constructive exercise with your team.

Have patience

Developers have a tendency toward a more reserved personality. Some developers have a hard time communicating with others in non-developer jargon. Because of this, Steven’s advice to project managers who are working with developers is to be as patient as possible. Be very efficient and try to establish a good personal relationship with the development team.

How can you establish a good personal relationship with your development team? Go above and beyond for them. Grab a cup of coffee together, and get to know each other better. If a developer is facing a problem, sit down and talk them through it. Order them a pizza if you know your development team is going to be working a long night. Going above and beyond for your development team raises their appreciation of you, and essentially helps dissipate their stress.

In the end

If you’re a project manager who wants their experience working with a development team to be as smooth-sailing as possible, consider the following advice: communicate effectively, help reduce stress by being positive and constructive, establish a good relationship, learn from your mistakes and be patient. Doing all these things will make your development team happy to work with you, which in turn will make you happy to work with your development team.

If you want to hear more about Voltage’s dev offerings — or how we work together to produce award-winning digital — contact us at 303.664.1687 or email us at info@voltagead.com.


VOLTAGE is a digital agency specializing in eCommerce, digital brand experiences, and web apps. Get emails and insights from our team:

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