I have found myself explaining the role of delivery manager a lot over the last few weeks, so I thought I would share that description here.
The term delivery manager is an agile role used in government and other organisations, mainly within (but not limited to) digital or IT departments. It describes the person on the agile team whose main concern is enabling a team of skilled people to deliver value. They create the right environment for the team. They facilitate the team and remove obstacles and blockers that might get in their way. They work closely with the product manager (sometimes known as product owner), but while the product manager is concerned with the vision the delivery manager is concerned with making it happen. The perfect visionary and doer pairing.
Delivery manager is sometimes used interchangeably with “scrum master” and “agile project manager” although, in different organisations, these terms might have slightly different definitions.
I was the head of role for delivery managers at Government Digital Service (GDS) and since becoming an Agile consultant, I have helped other government departments and organisations hire and develop delivery managers. The description on the GDS service design manual is a good place to start and over the last few years, I have refined my thinking and the way I describe the role to others.
Aspects of the delivery manager role
Broadly the delivery manager role breaks down into three main areas, these are; Agile / lean practices, team dynamics and delivery support.
I have summarised each area below.
Agile / lean practices (The tangible skills)
The delivery manager is the person on the team who leads on agile and lean practices. They use a variety of agile and lean tools and techniques in order to help the team deliver value and remain focused on the product vision. They will be able to draw upon a range of tools and techniques, and know which of them to use at different times, to make sure the team are getting the best out of being agile.
A good delivery manager will be learning new tools all the time, know when to use them and know about current trends
Team dynamics (the softer skills)
The delivery manager is concerned with the health and happiness of the team members. They will encourage and motivate the team and protect them from external distractions and politics so they are able to focus on what they are best at.
A good delivery manager knows that a happy team will produce the most amazing work and understands how to best support people.
Delivery support (the other stuff)
As the role of project manager is removed from a team, there are some project management activities that fall to the delivery manager. These are often outward facing tasks and may include things like financial tracking, hiring, stakeholder relationships (supporting the product owner), reporting to a wider organisation (particularly relevant if the organisation has not fully adopted agile yet) and anything else that no one else is doing, but is necessary to support the team’s delivering value. I have seen this aspect of the role supported by another person where the overhead is taking the delivery manager away from agile / lean practices and team dynamics.
The middle of the Venn diagram (the core skills)
Sitting in the middle of the Venn diagram are very important skills that span all parts of the delivery manager role like coaching (team and external people), diplomacy, leadership, communication and facilitation.
There is a lot more detail behind each of these areas, which I’m happy to discuss further. Different teams will have different needs from their delivery manager, depending on the make-up of the team and the organisation that the team is within. There may also be a need for a delivery manager to have particular technical skills or understanding of what the team is delivering. I’d be interested in hearing thoughts from anyone that works in this area in the comments below.