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Issue 38

Software Project Management in Romania

Razvan Gai
Project Manager @iQuest
MANAGEMENT

At the moment of writing this article - 2015 August - Romania has been classified in many pools as a notable presence in the global IT&C market. It has a strategic geographical location, knowledgeable work force with academic support and is commonly multilingual capable. This country has had the chance to be involved in software projects for almost 20 year now, thus accumulating a vast experience in outsourcing, high-end services and even products. The 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 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 - then who managed all this work given to the Romanians? The projects were run initially by the entrepreneurs themselves that created these small companies with small teams and common sense management. As business men, the entrepreneurs, were managing the costs and the throughput like the company itself. Some had MBAs other just natural instinct, some used MS Project, other Excel (even today a very powerful management tool btw), some had strategies and visions, others just focusing 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 structure didn't cope anymore with the load. So "team leaders" emerged out of 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 joining the companies already at the management level, having acquired experience in academic environments and/or outside of the country, 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 the role as per their needs. The Project Manager's responsibilities were limited by the management needs each company had. 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 interchangeable from one company to another, hell even within the same company weren't and aren′t easily interchangeable. So this position of Romanian Software Project Manager had a long way (even today has) until we could clearly know end-to-end which its responsibilities and skills are.

This in turn affects hiring in a way that companies that require more from a Project Manager will have a tough time getting valuable people that want to change their company. They would come from a higher role doing the same things but for less money maybe or a downgrade in the title - what some companies call Project Managers others call Line Manager or Program Managers and so on.

"Technical" Project Manager

Grown in-house from a Senior Software Engineer is what one could call a "Technical" Project Manager. It appears that this is the preferred way these days in 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 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 it shouldn't be the case 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 remains.

Specialists versus generalists - it's good to have both of the groups in every aspect of life and profession, but have them both. "One man show" should not be the standard - manager, business analyst, architect, technical leader, guru, god-father, mentor, sales person, not that much place to squeeze all those in one person - so why not just get back to manager. Do one job and one job only and 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. The way forward looks promising as we start to align with the skills, responsibilities, trainings and certifications to grow PMs and make 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 like Project Management Institute - Romania Chapter, holding presentations, sharing information, aligning 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, I dare even to say a craft.

In conclusion professional Romanian Software Project Management can be a reality, and already is happening, we just need to … never let a project fail :).

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