Project Management ALTERNATIVES

Why do we need Project Management? Can we just skip this resource and work Agile without any additional mentoring or supervision? Or do we still need a PM to arrange and deliver a project? Let’s dig the alternatives.

Hey Crizpers, today we are going to discuss project management as an asset to a project team. Let’s identify what we need it for and what are the possible alternatives. Besides, some people are real supporters of a belief that a PM is not a MUST-HAVE project asset, especially in the Agile teams. Let’s see whether this is true and why they think so.

Project Management Shades


First of all, I would dive into the flavors of the project management methodologies. You should definitely know about them. The most ancient, the grand-dad of the project management and the software development is Waterfall. Just a quick recap, this is a predictive management approach when we plan everything is advance and do not welcome changes in the project scope. This solution requires a great labor input into the initiation stage and a lot of work is usually done to compose all the documentation, schemas and overall research. The followers of this methodology usually are the old-school guys who are willing to know in advance all the majors – how much and when.

As of above, Waterfall suspects a certain effort for planning, and is defined as a classical management methodology. Thus, should the project require Waterfall, I doubt it would survive without a Project Manager, thus we could leave it as is. Let’s considers as a rule of thumb that Waterfall = Project Manager.


Where the doubts have come from? Later on with the evaluation and development of the new delivery techniques the world has come to adaptive methodologies. The first one was Scrum, further we got Agile with its own flavors like Lean, XP and so on. I am not going to dig into much of a theory, we will probably review and compare the methodologies in the further chapters. However, the general idea here is about the change of minds and the new way of thinking. Adaptive approach welcome changes in the project and is about flexibility and adjustment of the project delivery.

The basis of the adaptive principles is that more accountability is owned by the team, the team is a key element and thus it has more powers in decision making. Moreover, there is a certain path of a self-lead team. From the top of minds it looks like the project management role is being minimized. But is that true?

Can Teams survive without Project Management?

Let’s say, in adaptive all is possible. According to the title, this methodology is called to adapt to the changes while living without a PM is a certain level of changes. In Scrum they even believe that this is an outdated role that eats an extra funds from the project and does not bring a significant value. Scrum feels a project needs a ScrumMaster rather than a PM.

Adaptive methodologies assume that a team consists of the generalized specialists. This means one team member can do several jobs. This could be an Analytic and an Architect in a single bottle. Or a person could write a code and then QA it. Modern teams are taught to collaborate efficiently. Besides, in Agile there could be natural leaders present that can take over the responsibilities and change their roles from a follower to a leader depends on the competence.

I have even faced the real life situations when the teams believe a project manager is not something significant and they could deal with everything themselves same efficiently. And in some companies they really do this themselves, although they might face additional challenges.

Project Management Alternatives in Mind

Who Leads the Projects?

Moving on, tell me please, how many project leading roles do you know? Let’s count.

Project Manager, Project Leader, Project Coordinator, Scrum Master, Agile Coach.. anything else? Let me know in comments.

If we eliminate the most common one – a Project Manager, we will still have multiple other leading positions. And now let’s knock it down whether there are any significant differences between a Project Manager and these other guys.

Starting from the nutshell, what are the responsibilities of these roles?


A Scrum Master is the modern alternative for a Project Manager and many companies are struggling to define if they need a Project Manager or a Scrum Master.

As per the Scrum Alliance:

The scrum master is the team role responsible for ensuring the team lives agile values and principles and follows the processes and practices that the team agreed they would use.

The responsibilities of this role include:

– Clearing obstacles
– Establishing an environment where the team can be effective
– Addressing team dynamics
– Ensuring a good relationship between the team and product owner as well as others outside the team
– Protecting the team from outside interruptions and distractions

In other words, this person providing the team with the clear expectations and requirements. Ensures if the resources are available and have the appropriate capacity (both human and material). Helps the team to evolve and collaborate together. Manage communication and the stakeholders engagement. Manage risks and their proactive mitigation.

Well, this is a very important and useful resource that needs to be implemented in the project team, do you agree?

Agile Coach

Further on, what about this fellow? What does he or she do in Agile and its flavors, and what is the Coach role?

In its general, Agile Coach is a person who is responsible for the Agile principles implementation or improvement throughout the organization. This role could be initiated when the company decides to transfer from the predictive Waterfall structure to the adaptive development methodologies. The general responsibilities of this guy are:

  • Coach teams about the Agile methodology
  • Integrate Agile throughout the company
  • Develop and implement related standards and procedures
  • Provide trainings for the teams
  • Implement relevant Agile tools and software
  • Keep the teams and stakeholders engaged with the Agile principles

Here we can see that a Coach in most cases could be a one-time role or a consulting organization and it is more about the internal procedures modification, thus it’s not our body.

Let’s move on.

Choose a Leadership Role

Project Coordinator

In a couple of words, this role is about making sure projects are completed on time and within the budget.

The general responsibilities of the Project Coordinator are the project monitoring and controlling; stakeholders engagement and communications coordination; project knowledge coordination; project delivery facilitation AND providing assistance for a Project Manager. Now we can see that a Coordinator is more of a supplementary role to help a Project Manager on a project.

Again, not our body.

Project Leader

Who is that mystique peer? As per the common definition, a Project Leader is a person who is concerned about leading people in the team during the project and helping them focus on the project deliverables.

They set expectations and direct the team work, they resolve interpersonal conflicts and control the team performance. They keep the team on track and ensure the team efforts are put together for the project goals.

Well, in my understanding this is more of a Team Lead role and could be delegated to a senior one who performs good leadership skills.

Again, someone important, but still not the right body.

Roles Relationships

What about a Project Manager?

If you don’t mind, I would prefer not to spend time on describing who the Project Managers are and how they deliver projects. You should have had a chance to find this out form the previous articles. If not, I encourage you to check it via the links provided above.  

In here I’d like to summarize all the roles and the relationships among them. As you remember, we pointed out Project Manager, ScrumMaster, Agile Coach, Project Coordinator and Project Leader. So what to do with all these guys and how to make them collaborate smoothly?

I tell you, there is no problem at all.

Leading Roles Games

Agile Coach could be both external or internal resource, but this person does nothing about the projects themselves. He or she works on the company procedures and workflow modification.

Further, a Project Leader. This pip takes over just a few management activities and his or her main focus is the team performance. I would say this role is absolutely separate and has different functions than a PM.

What about a Project Coordinator? Well, this is an interesting candidate to consider. However, as we have seen from the role description, this person performs a supplementary activities to a Project Management duties. I would say this resource could provide a great help to a PM especially on large and high-profile projects.

So what we have left? ScrumMaster. I bet this is the most interesting and concerning alternative to a Project Manager. But once again, let’s look into the ScrumMaster’s responsibilities.

The responsibilities of this role include:

– Clearing obstacles
– Establishing an environment where the team can be effective
– Addressing team dynamics
– Ensuring a good relationship between the team and product owner as well as others outside the team
– Protecting the team from outside interruptions and distractions

Same Diamond

Don’t you feel this is the same what the Project Managers do? If you are aware about all the PM’s accountabilities, all of them have something in common with the ScrumMasters activities.

Then what the difference is? Honestly, it is all about the title.

When we have Waterfall we call for a Project Manager.

While we do Agile, we ask for a ScrumMaster.

These are the different faces of the same diamond. The only question is about the methodologies and the management techniques that are used by these fellows.

Project Manager VS ScrumMaster

To sum up, Project Management is alive and not going to disappear. We could give a cow another name, but it still will say Moo.

Besides, both a Project Manager and a ScrumMaster operate on multiple levels in the company, so it would be quite difficult to get rid of the role without a loss in time and resources.

I would say to us, Project Managers, no need to worry at this point, we are still wanted. Nevertheless, do not lag behind, always study something new, stay on a tip of a knife, practice innovations within your application field.

Let me know if you recall any other project leadership jobs and what you think of their real roles on the project?