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Decoding the Project Management and Engineering Relationship

I am a data engineer. At this point in my career I have worked in a range of industries from media to healthcare to finance. A common thread in all of them was the necessity of project management, but project managers are not always a welcomed entity. The relationship between project managers and engineers, regardless of industry, has always been a precarious one. Is it because engineers don not always need project managers or is it because we do not always get what they are doing? There are many scenarios that can make the relationship murky. Let us dive into a few of the most common scenarios that can be misconstrued to understand both the engineering and project manager perspectives.

Scenario 1:

Your team has been selected to build something super awesome and important using technology that you are really into; that’s great! You know your team has the skills and expertise to knock it out of the park. Your project manager, on the other hand, is scheduling more meetings than you’d prefer, and they come with a barrage of questions. It seems like they are second guessing your skillset. Or you feel like having to explain the technology and approach is out of their wheelhouse, so it shouldn’t be necessary to take the time. Au contraire mon frère.

What may seem like an attempt to undermine or second-guess you, is actually your PM setting up their first line of defense for you. They know that managing stakeholder expectations will save everyone a lot of pain and heartbreak from the beginning. And while your PM may not have hands-on knowledge of the tools and technology you are using, there is a good chance they have situational experience that would allow them to use the knowledge you are sharing to inform their questions and pushback from the stakeholders. By project managers doing that extra leg work, they give themselves the tools to take on stakeholder meetings, so you don’t have to.

Scenario 2:

Now, that clear expectations have been set and you know that your PM has your back, the project has been rocking and rolling. Your team is knocking out tickets and you are learning some awesome new skills that you think would be great additions to this and future projects. You take the time to do some extra development work to introduce this cool new feature. You present it in standup, and while your fellow engineers may think it is cool, your project manager immediately shuts it down. Why won’t they let you be great?!

The reality is that while the PM believes you are great, they also believe in the requirements, timeline, and budget that was set for the project. By introducing complexity later in the game and going outside the scope of the project, reaching project milestones and goals starts to become risky. They spent all that time on the front end of the project setting up those defenses to protect you and your team and set you up for success; they want to keep it that way. However, this is a great opportunity to practice open dialog with your project manager. Take the time to explain the investment into the addition and you can discuss the tradeoffs as a team. Because you helped educate your project manager in the beginning by answering all of their questions (remember Scenario 1?) they have a more educated understanding of the proposal, and a strategic decision can be made together.

Scenario 3:

The workload is not lightening up yet for the team, but you are nearing the end of the project. In the midst of all your hard engineering work, your project manager is running standup, sending some emails, and maybe asking a few follow up questions. At this point, it seems like that is about all they are doing. The engineers are working really hard over here! What’s the deal?

Well, as it turns out, your awesome team was set up with an awesome project manager, and all of your hard work along with all of the early pushback and reigning in of ideas has kept your project on time, on budget, and in scope. Do not fret. While your PM may seem like they are kicking back, I can assure you that they are keeping close watch. Your project manager is behind-the-scenes proactively communicating to stakeholders about the great work that is being done and regularly managing expectations about the final deliverables. They won’t let you down in the home stretch.

These are just a handful of scenarios that can be misconstrued in the PM and engineering relationship. There are many ways in which we, as engineers, can better collaborate with our PMs to help create and maintain strong, productive working relationships. Here at Ippon, we believe in building strong, collaborative teams that work as a unit across our project and engineering goals. We focus on educating our teams about the values that various team members and disciplines bring to a team and how we can work together to deliver a project.

If you have found it hard for various roles and departments to work together seamlessly across the project lifecycle, let Ippon model the way. Send us a line at

Post by Diane Nash
Feb 20, 2020 11:23:00 AM


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