Why Do We Need Managers?
Every IT company has managers, but what do they actually do? If you’re a web developer or programmer, chances are that you’ll receive tasks from a manager who will want to see the results of your efforts. This is the person who makes sure you’re not procrastinating or slacking off and is almost ever present in meetings. Still, you might be tempted to think, wouldn’t it be easier if you could just receive tasks directly from a client?
To answer that, let’s examine what in further detail what IT managers do.
Simply put, the main responsibility of a manager is to ensure that the work gets done, preferably within deadlines and in accordance with the allocated budget. To do this, managers delegate tasks to their team members and then supervise the team’s progress. It might sound simple enough, but in reality, it’s actually quite challenging.
In IT companies, managers are responsible for product development, design, and maintenance. In web development studios, managers make sure designers design, web developers develop, and copywriters write — and they ensure that all of this is done on time. After everything is finished, the manager brings the final product together.
You could say that managers are like dispatchers because they work with incoming tasks, distribute them between team members, and forward the final product to the client.
Let’s imagine that you and your friends have decided to go camping. You’ve made a list of all the necessities: tents, food, crockery, cutlery, and something to make a fire with. It would also be handy to have: a first aid kit, lights, power cells and batteries, a change of clothes, and of course, a guitar.
If there’s no one to act as a manager on this trip, there could be two outcomes:
- Each team member will pack as if they’re going camping alone. Each person will bring their own stuff: a personal tent, a first aid kit, lights, a stove, a guitar, and so on.
- Everyone will bring a smaller selection of items, leading to a good chance of missing something being left behind. As such, the team won’t know whether they’ll have everything necessary for the trip. It may turn out that two campers brought a guitar each, but no one brought a first aid kit.
There’s also no guarantee that the team will agree on a route and be able to finish it on time. There might be delays, someone could fall behind, or a camper may decide to return home, getting lost on the way back.
With a manager in place, the team will need fewer resources, move along the route faster, and their actions will be better synchronized.
Back to tech
In IT companies, there aren’t really problems like sudden rain storms or wayward developers lost in the woods (we hope).
However you don’t need to be in the middle of a forest to need a manager. Even in a nice warm office problems can arise, such as:
- Several developers might devote work time to the same low-priority tasks while leaving a higher-priority task untouched.
- There could be no guidelines on how to bring the different parts of the project together. As such, a back-end developer will hand over their data in one format, despite the fact that a front-end developer may have wanted it to be in another format. The manager’s job is to make sure that team members find common ground and effectively merge the parts of their work together.
- Those responsible for a project could set deadlines without taking into account the overall workload of the other team members. For example, if a website is to be launched on Monday, a developer might assume they can finish it on Friday. But the procrastinating web developer didn’t take into account that, before launching, it has to be tested and proofread.
- The front and back ends might not even come together!
There’s always a manager
In any company, there’s always a person who has the responsibilities of a manager. If you’re working on a personal project at home in the evenings, you are your own manager. You set objectives, assess whether those objectives have been achieved, and decide when to launch the project.
If there are two people creating a website, most likely, one of you will be making the important decisions. Another approach is to share the responsibility. For example, one developer will make decisions about the tools and techniques, while the other will decide on interface and design. One of you will be responsible for assembling everything together, and the other will evaluate the final product, and make the decision to launch.
Sometimes, a client acts as a manager, even if they don’t formally have such a title. They order a design for their app, oversee the production process, and publish the product to app stores.
Is management a real profession?
A manager doesn’t always need advanced technical skills. That’s why one might think they don’t need a manager in their team. In the absence of coding ability or other technical expertise, what do they actually bring to the table?
The fact is, being a manager requires a lot of effort. Going on vacation with children might not require any special skills, but to deal with three kids, pack all their favorite toys, enough food, insect repellent, and any other necessities is a lot of work. Just thinking about the packing and preparation can give you a headache.
Companies need managers for several reasons:
- Managers look at the big picture. They see how small projects make up the final product.
- Managers make sure everyone knows the deadlines.
- Managers make sure a team communicates with one another and that all the team members are on the same page.
Moreover, managers also interact with clients. Interacting with a client isn’t exactly easy. If the client tells you to add some “razzle-dazzle,” your job as a manager is to figure out what that means.
So yes, being a manager is a hard job. In many cases, it’s probably a lot easier to just write code!
Types of managers and their roles
In IT companies, you’ll likely meet the following types of managers:
- The project manager is responsible for delivering projects often ordered by a client. The manager knows everything about the deadlines and project requirements, distributes the tasks, and clarifies any details with clients.
- The product manager is responsible for the entire product lifecycle. Let’s say you’re working on a website with classified ads that has multiple content modules (a payment section, a chat, and a photo editor). Your job is to make sure that your project is properly maintained — it has all the necessary features that are highly demanded by the user community and all bugs are fixed. You may also need to ensure that the product returns a profit (but that’s not always the case).
- The team lead is responsible for distributing and coordinating the work in a team. For example, there might be a front-end department that does a lot of different tasks for other departments. The job of the team lead is to pass these tasks to the team and then hand the final product back to the client.
- The chief technical officer (CTO) is in charge of all the projects and technical aspects of the company and also provides technical support for production. They know which technologies are implemented within the product and how the project is assembled. The CTO is familiar with the development process and knows how everything relates to the company’s budget. The role of the CTO is similar to what the managers do, just on the technical side of things.
The difference between an IT specialist and a manager
IT specialists and managers have entirely different approaches towards their work.
- An IT specialist dives deeper into the technical side of things. Let’s say you have a senior back-end developer on your team who is brilliant when it comes to handling high server loads. They’re good at building app architectures and writing complex code. Their goal is to deliver a given task at the highest possible level.
- A manager looks at the bigger picture. They know how the different departments work, how the production process works, and what the team has to do in order to produce a successful project. Their goal is to make sure that the work that IT specialists do brings the desired result.
Let’s put it this way: you can go camping with the greatest guitar player and the best chef in the world, but without a manager on your team, you might not have tents to sleep in, or any of the other necessities you need to survive. Your camping trip would be a disaster! That’s why every team needs a manager.
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