What is an Agile Project Manager?

Agile project management is a bit of a misnomer – in agile, there are self directed teams, so you shouldn’t really need a project manager to manage someone.

In one of the most popular agile frameworks, Scrum, there is no role of project manager. There’s only a product owner, the Scrum master, and developers.

“In my opinion, there is no such thing as an agile project manager,” says Agileana’s Shefali Naik.

“Agile advocates moving away from the model in which one person directs and the rest of the team follows. The role is more of an Agile coach or Scrum Master.”

Of course, there are agile project manager jobs out there and workplaces sometimes need a project manager to keep a a team on track. But these projects are probably not truly agile because of client expectations or workplace culture, thus, the agile project manager (PM) is born.

Agile Project Manager Responsibilities

Agile is an iterative approach that is open to change. A team delivers products in small increments so that the product owner or customer can be involved in the process. An agile project manager ensures that a team and customer understand how to be agile.

In traditional software development methodologies like waterfall the process is linear. A customer or product owners specifies what they want, the development team delivers that product when it is finished. The project manager is organizing a team that will take an idea and turn it into a tangible product with only the customer input at the beginning and end of the project.

What makes an agile PM different from any other project manager is “basically the difference between a normal traditional type of project and an agile project,” says Agileana project manager Virginia Alvarez.

“So, a traditional type of project is more rigid. You have different phases, but they’re all very linear. So, at first you do the requirements and the design, then the development, and then that’s it you’re done. In agile, you can do the same phases, but it’s iterative.”

The release cycles are smaller and deliverables are reviewed by a product owner. An agile PM ensures that this process is happening correctly and, in essence, empowers their team to be agile and self directed.

Being an Agile PM Includes:

  • Coaching the team on agile
  • Introducing agile techniques like pair programming
  • Protecting the team from outside, non-agile requirements from stakeholders so developers can do their job
  • Communicating with product owners and developers about priorities and progress

Agile Project Management Certifications:

There are a number of ways to show potential employers you know how to do agile and can manage a team. Past performance is one of these ways; but certifications can show that you know your stuff. Some of the most popular certifications are:

Project Management Institute’s Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP):

This is a 120 question exam. It covers agile in fine detail, from Scrum to Kanban, lean to extreme programming (XP) and everything in between.

Certified ScrumMaster

While technically not a project manager, a ScrumMaster coaches a Scrum team on being agile and gets rid of blockers so developers and product owners can do their jobs. And, again, it’s the closest thing to project management in Scrum. Becoming a Certified ScrumMaster requires a two day course and passing an open book exam.

Certified SAFe Agilist (Scaled Agile)

An agile certification designed for business leaders, it teaches a framework for helping workplaces implement agile practices. To get the certification, you must attend a two day intensive class and pass a 45 question, closed book exam.

Agile Project Manager Salary Range:

There are several estimates on the internet for how much an agile project manager makes: $89,000, $116,000, $122,000 a year. But, like any job, where you are and your certifications have a lot of impact on your salary. An agile project manager salary in Washington, DC is likely going to be higher than in Lincoln, NE where the cost of living is lower. Rergadless, a project manager in a lucrative industry with a number of certifications could be paid $150,000 a year and up to $200,000 a year.

Interested in applying for an agile project manager position at Agileana? Send a cover letter and resume to [email protected].

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