When I hear discussion around the management of projects and the management of a portfolio of projects I come back to a foundational question - Why Is This Project Being Done?
This question usually has some simple answer, because someone told us they wanted it. Or, It is needed by the business. Or something like that.
The result usually doesn't impact the developers themselves, but it certaintly impacts the development organization and all of IT. The impact is simple
There is more demand for work than there is capacity for work
If anyone is looking for one killer answer to why we need Project Mangers in IT or software development, this is it. Who manages the demand? Who manages the capacity?
Demand and capacity management is part of any business and technology governance process. Managing demand is Project Management. Managing demand is business management. Managing the day-to-day work is the responsibility of the Work Package Manager on the largest (multi-billion $) defense programs we look after, so the IT shops should be able to figure out how to do this - I know, let's use Scrum!!
But How Do We Manage Demand?
Demand management is a systems engineering discipline in the corporate IT world. Demand management is part of forecasting, budgeting, and performance management. If we look at a general business definition of demand management it says,
In order to manage planning, production and delivery, any properly run business has to be able to balance orders for its products and services (i.e., demand) with its ability to produce them in terms of resource and scheduling constraints (i.e., supply). Otherwise it might produce too little of what is required, too much of what is not required, or deliver late, or have problems with product quality or customer satisfaction.
But for IT there is not this clear delineation of products and services. So one starting point is to build a Balanced Scorecard for IT. The Balanced Scorecard is a means of identifying Why things are done in IT. Why are we doing this project? Look at the BSC to see the Strategic Initiative that is supported by this work. Here's a notional view of a page from the Balanced Scorecard showing the Vision, Strategic Objective, the Performance Goal, the Critical Success Factors, and Key Performance Indicators for the project.
This page answers many questions around the project, so when someone comes by and asked what are you working one? Or, what have you done for me lately? You can whip out the BSC page and shown them.
But for today, the connection between Why we're doing something, and What we're doing and How we're measuring the success of that What can be done through these types of pictures.