Software Project Management in Romania
At the moment of writing this article – August 2015 – Romania had already been ranked in many polls as a notable presence in the global IT&C market. It has a strategic geographical location, knowledgeable work force and academic support and is known for its multilingual culture. This country has been involved in software projects – as it is today – for almost 20 year now, thus accumulating vast experience in outsourcing, high-end services and even products. Question is – who’s managing all this?
But before talking about Project Management, let’s briefly visit a common definition of a project i.e. “a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service, or result”. So all these years Romania had a lot of temporary endeavors creating a product or service which may or may not run in production even today. Most of these projects started as subprojects of larger global projects that found their way into a Romanian “software development house”, thus being managed by foreign experienced Project Managers that outsourced pieces of work to Romanians. So actually the management effort for these projects was not that complex to begin with, of course this changed over time.
From entrepreneurs to … “Project Managers”
Thinking about the beginnings, I wonder, who managed back then all this work given to the Romanians? The projects were run initially by the entrepreneurs themselves who created these small companies with small teams and common sense management. As business men, these entrepreneurs managed the costs and the throughput as well as the company itself. Some had MBAs, others just a natural instinct, some used MS Project, others Excel (even today a very powerful management tool btw), some had strategies and visions, others just focused on doing a good job for a fully active reference. As demand for scalability increased and more and more software developers “joined the party”, the relatively flat management structures couldn’t cope with the load anymore. So, the “team leaders” emerged from the “team” and allowed the big boss to delegate management. Over time, they received the title of “project managers” and projects were done around these natural born leaders. Of course there were other sources of managers already joining companies at the management level, having acquired experience in academic environments and/or outside the country, and who very soon found their places in the upper hierarchical management layers.
One name. Multiple job descriptions & responsibilities.
Why use quotes for these early Romanian “Project Managers”? Well, let’s see, because it’s all relative. Each company started to define this role according to their needs. The Project Manager’s responsibilities were limited by the management needs of each company. Of course there should be a common denominator somewhere – from the simplistic scope-time-budget triangle, to diamonds, to pentagons of management and so on – but no Project Manager was and is interchangeable from one company to another, not even within the same company. So the position of the Romanian Software Project Manager has had a long journey (that is not over yet) in order to clearly define and establish the required responsibilities and skills.
This in turn affects the hiring process, in the sense that companies that require more from a Project Manager have a tough time finding valuable people who want to make a change in the company. These Project Managers come from a higher role doing the same things, but maybe for less money or with a less important title – what some companies call Project Managers others call Line Managers or Program Managers and so on.
“Technical” Project Manager
An in-house grown Senior Software Engineer is what one could call a “Technical” Project Manager. It appears that these days this is the preferred way of growing Project Managers. In theory a Project Manager from another industry could very well manage a project in the IT industry, however, it would take some time to get on board with all the specifics of the industry, and there is one limitation of course – this project manager is not able to jump in and write code when the going gets tough and the tough get going. And maybe he or she shouldn’t even have to, as it basically violates the very first principle of SOLID, the “single responsibility principle”. Yes, I know that’s for classes, not for people, some programmers might rant, but the philosophy still remains.
Specialists versus generalists – it’s good to have them both in every aspect of life and profession. A one-man show should not be the standard – manager, business analyst, architect, technical leader, guru, godfather, mentor, sales person – there isn’t that much space to squeeze in all those into one position, so why not just get back to the manager. Do one job and do it well!
Professional Project Managers
“With great power comes great responsibility” – actually there is no power, only responsibility. Power can’t be given, responsibility can be given and assumed. Leaders have the power to influence the direction projects head to, but there is no named leader, only self-made ones. The way forward looks promising as we start to align with the skills, responsibilities, training and certifications in order to grow PMs and create Project Management Offices. It’s not an easy challenge and it may be a slow and painful process, but it must be done if we want to increase the today’s frowned upon small percent of actual successful software projects. I’m personally glad to see today project managers from different companies gathering with the help of entities such as the Project Management Institute Romania Chapter, giving presentations, sharing information, agreeing on the responsibilities a project manager should have, the technical and soft skills a manager and a leader should possess and really building a community, and dare I say, even a craft.
In conclusion, professional Romanian Software Project Management can become a reality, and is already happening. We just need to … never let a project fail :).
(Featured article in Today Software Magazine)
Tags: Project Management