February 24, 2021
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How to Structure Leadership Roles for Guaranteed Project Delivery

  • By Raja Gangavarapu
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Recently, project managers’ roles have changed; they're responsible for more than mere project delivery of projects, they're responsibilities now also include important issues such as compliance to project controls and audit requirements such as SOX, HIPPA, and many industry-specific regulations. These additional responsibilities complicate the delivery process and burden project managers.

IT project managers typically come from different backgrounds. Some project managers have development backgrounds, and can understand the technical issues and help resolve them. However, the constant changes to technology quickly make the technical skills of any project manager outdated. Soon, the project manager loses the ability to understand the technical issues, and instead must rely on other technical resources in the team. The problem arises when a project has not been structured with the relevant technical resources. In such cases the project manager will get inaccurate advice about resolving the issues. The problem is even more aggravated for project managers who come from non-technical background.

This article demonstrates how to pair a project manager with a technical representative such as an architect or tech lead to guarantee project delivery when no formal architectural role exists.

The ideas presented here are easily achieved by IT organizations that have a formal Project Management Office (PMO) and consistency in architecture applicability. Smaller or less formal IT groups that do not have either a PMO or consistent architecture practices can benefit more by combining the ideas presented in this article with the establishment of such practices.

Author's Note: See the article "Architectural Layers and Tips on how to Achieve Architecture Consistency" for more information about organizing the different architectural roles and attaining consistent architecture.


IT groups employ architects to play a senior guiding role for technical solutions. When the architect’s role is not formalized (typical in smaller organizations), a senior developer or tech lead typically fulfills the need to direct the solution design. Irrespective of an IT organization's size, the project manager has a main role in project delivery, and usually acts as the single point of contact for any given project.

Organizations expect project managers to get specialized help or resources to solve problems in specific problem areas. In fact, this is where problems usually occur, because the project manager may not have sufficient understanding of the problem to get the specialized help needed. Present-day projects vary in complexity, requiring different technical skills to solve problems; specific knowledge to forecast delivery timelines accurately or communicate realistic expectations to the customer (or business) about solution delivery. Table 1 illustrates some examples.

Table 1. How Complexity Introduces Critical Technical Issues: The breadth of the critical technical issues points out the need for specialized expertise to augment a project manager's capabilities.
Complexity Critical Technical Issues
Delivering strategic initiatives such as Global ERP or Supply Chain Replacement
  • Delivery time
  • Building industry knowledge
  • Integrating knowledge with any type of target systems
  • Data accuracy and validation
  • Constructing delivery phases
  • Measuring value
  • Understanding enterprise standards
  • Identifying and procuring technical tools or other packages
  • Working with vendors
  • Identifying, designing and implementing package extensions and gaps
  • Compliance and security
  • Modifications to help desk or support requirements
Replacing legacy applications with updated technologies—either with custom solutions or a COTS solution
  • Delivery time
  • Identify transformational risks
  • Understanding new technologies
  • Assess organizational capabilities for allocating relevant resources and identifying skill sets
  • Plan for risk mitigation
  • Understand the ROI
Infrastructure improvement or replacement, such as installing routers, upgrading hardware, or making operations center changes, etc.
  • Delivery time
  • Understanding the customer or business requirements
  • Estimating costs correctly
  • Taking a long-term view
  • Working with outsourced partners or external vendors
  • Minimizing downtime for changes
  • Environmental factors
Key strategic releases for any IT products, such as in health care or banking
  • Delivery Time, compliance, and audit requirements
  • Security
  • Customer expectations
  • Unknown usage patterns
  • Potential partnership with partners and vendors
  • Speed to market
  • Potential overhaul of internal IT systems
  • Unique methodology or specific SDLC
  • Offshore development partners
  • Modifications to help desk or support requirements

Even though the examples shown in Table 1 are not exhaustive, they illustrate the complex situations where IT needs reinforcement for project leadership. Such proposed partnerships will bring the specific expertise onboard (such as for those illustrated in Table 1) to help the project manager achieve success.

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This article was originally published on September 28, 2009

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