Explaining the role of a Delivery Manager

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**Post updated Feb 2018**

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 to help others understand it.

The term delivery manager is used to describe an essential set of skills on an agile team and is used in government as well as other organisations, mainly within (but not limited to) digital departments. It describes the person in a skilled, multidisciplinary team whose is concerned with is enabling that team to deliver value. They do this by creating the right environment for the team to succeed, helping the team to self organise and creating a culture of learning and transparency.

The role is a one of a servant leader, they keep pace with the introduction of relevant agile / lean tools and techniques, and remove obstacles and blockers that might get in the way of delivery. 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. It’s worth noting that it is important that these two roles are not performed by the same person.

The term Delivery manager is sometimes used interchangeably with “scrum master” and “agile project manager” although it it not the same set of skills and responsibilities, which is why I felt I needed to write this post.

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 health & happiness, and delivery support. All these aspects are important and some are easier to learn than others.

Aspects of the delivery manager role: Agile and lean practices; team health and happiness, and delivery support
Aspects of the delivery manager role

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 keep a delivery and learning cadence that helps to remain focused on delivering value against the product vision. They will know which techniques to try out when to make sure the team are getting the best out of being agile.

A good delivery manager will be skilled at agile and lean, they will be learning new tools all the time, know when to use them and know about current trends

Team health & happiness (the people skills)

The delivery manager is concerned with the health and happiness of the team members and how they work together. 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, they are skilled at building trust, managing team dynamics and motivating people.

Delivery support (the other stuff)

As there is no formal role for a traditional project manager in an agile team, there are some 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. The delivery manager may challenge existing processes and work with people outside the team to update them if they are slowing the team down or not adding the most value for everyone.

I have seen this aspect of the role supported by another person (either inside or outside of the team) where the overhead is taking the delivery manager away from Agile & lean practices and Team health & happiness.

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 (individuals, the team and people outside of the team), diplomacy, leadership (including servant 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.

**Post updated Feb 2018, you can see what changed here**


  1. Delivery Manager is a corporate friendly title, there might be a need for that. It might also reinforce the wrong behaviours. Short term delivery focus can lead to MVPs that forgot the V and crippling technical debt. Trying to motivate people in a traditional sense is usually unsustainable. I believe the mindset of servant leadership is at the heart of such a role. Agile teams need coaching, facilitation and enablement.

    An agile delivery type person (insert better name here) should be about building long term capability, through nurturing self organisation, increasing transparency and trust, helping navigate disfunction and conflict, and motivation through autonomy, mastery and purpose. They are also going to have to be change agents, challenging the status quo where it does not enable the team.

    • ewebber

      30 January 2016 at 7:14 am

      Hi Jon,

      Thanks for your comment, there are some great clarification points in here.

      I’m using the term delivery manager because that’s the one used in government and a term that I’m often working with. I’m not convinced it’s ideal, but I think it’s better than scrum master (which suggests a particular framework) and agile project manager (that is too close in language to project manager).

      As you point to, quality is an important aspect of any delivery, facilitating the team to be great should include the appropriate levels of quality for what is being built and for what purpose. I won’t get into the debate over the definition of MVP here, but if you are building something to test ideas (e.g. a prototype) your quality levels will be different from something that will go into the live environment.

      I’m glad you brought up motivation, we are not talking “work harder and you’ll get a bonus”, it’s really more than that. Autonomy, learning, getting better at what you do, personal growth, social connections and creating great products and services all contribute to motivation. I avoided the term “servant leader” here because although it’s well understood within the agile community, I wanted to say away from any agile jargon, but I completely agree that is what the role is.

      Agile isn’t just a way of developing software, it is organisational change, all members of an agile team should always be questioning if they are doing the most important thing and if they are doing it in the best way. A delivery manager should be encouraging that questioning as well as coaching others outside the team so everyone can work together. In larger organisations, this part of the role can be substantial and may call for additional organisational coaches.

    • That is what I believe as well but I’ve only experienced the short term delivery focus way. Great description!

  2. ewebber

    3 February 2016 at 3:50 pm

    A nice and relevant post from Yiannis Godfrey who is at the Australian government digital service went up today: https://www.dto.gov.au/blog/so-what-does-a-delivery-manager-do/

  3. Its interesting to see how agile is evolving as more and more companies of different sizes are changing the way they deliver. I believe that there really isn’t a one size fits all model for implementing the changes, as each company has to find what works well for them.

    Terminology that is used in one place may be frowned upon in others, e.g Delivery Manager is acceptable in governmental place but maybe seen as too bureaucratic in start ups. As long as value is being delivered to the business and the process is working, then that is what is important.

    People are Key, relationships are key and a willingness to make it better is vital.

    Good Article and a very interesting topic.

    • ewebber

      4 February 2016 at 3:18 pm

      Thanks Steve, indeed, language is important. Whatever you call it, I think the role is the same. But most importantly it’s about being agile with it. The team and environment may have different needs.

  4. Victoria Morgan-Smith

    9 February 2016 at 1:48 pm

    Interesting read, thanks Emily. I’m reading this with an eye to the challenges we face when hiring.

    The problem with the title “Scrum Master”:
    A good Scrum Master has a very rich portfolio of skills and activities. Incorporating facilitating, coaching, training, encouraging & enabling communication etc – all those things Jon says above about the ability to build and support really strong teams.
    However, when hiring, it seems that out in the recruitment space “Scrum Master” has come to equate “junior facilitator” and so finding highly experienced Scrum Masters is actually very hard.
    It also strongly hints that it’s about Scrum, rather than any broader Agile or Lean principles which may not involve Scrum at all.

    The problem with “Agile Project Manager”:
    Here we often get Project Managers who just stick the word “Agile” on the front and think that’s all they need to do. So we end up wading through a ton of CVs and interviewing loads of people in order to check out their agile credentials and mindset.
    It also means really good Scrum Masters may not apply for that role.

    So, “Delivery Manager” seems to be something we could consider, with its emphasis on helping the team towards their goal of delivering, as well as team building and all that lovely scrum-mastering-coaching goodness. Better still perhaps, “Delivery Lead”, because I have an issue with the word “manager”…

    • ewebber

      10 February 2016 at 8:07 am

      Hi Victoria,
      I agree the title is a difficult one, I tend not to use scrum master as it has a framework in the title (it’s like adverts for a PRINCE2 project manager), it also almost says “you must spend £1k + on a certification before you can apply, even if you’ve been doing it for years”.

      Changing language is an important part of culture change, which is why I think “Delivery manager” was first used, but as you say “manager” is a difficult word so I’m not sure it’s right.

      As someone who has done a lot of hiring, I don’t think you’ll ever get away from people without the level of experience you are looking for applying for a role. The best you can do is be explicit about what kind of experience you would expect. e.g. most new scrum masters won’t have experience of initiating a project, building a team, going through discovery and getting a service live.

      You might look to Toyota and think about “Team Lead”, but as there is not just one leader in the team, I’m not sure it’s right in this context.
      “Delivery Lead” is worth trying out (be lean about it, test the hypothesis!). Having the word “Delivery” will get you applicants from a logistics background, but I’m not sure you can get away from that. Maybe “Agile Delivery Lead” may be slightly better.

      • I blame LinkedIn …seriously.
        10/15 years ago we didn’t really have this plethora of job titles, so peacocking was done in the good old fashioned way of what watch you were sporting and what you had sitting in the car park.
        Nowadays its done via people thinking of the most ‘trending’ job titles on LinkedIn. ‘Agile Program Delivery Manager’ is my current favourite. Especially when 6 months ago they were a BA who once attended a Stand Up.
        Recruiting in the last 24months has been a nightmare. As Victoria correctly pointed out, I fall into the same trap when writing job adverts. I know what I want in my head, a really good Scrum Master. But I feel the term Scrum Master has been diluted greatly over the recent years.
        I have now started insisting for CSP level certifications for all my Scrum Master hires just to cut down the time wasted on fabricated job profiles that get caught out at interview. But I do this knowing that I’m alienating some of my peers who haven’t gone down the certification route.
        …and don’t get me started on the ‘Agile Coach’ moniker. Turns out we have 500+ ‘Agile Coaches’ in Yorkshire according to LinkedIn! Good news for the Northern Tech Hub 🙂

        • ewebber

          21 February 2016 at 11:49 am

          Like them or not, Job titles do help people search for jobs. As I’ve mentioned a couple of times here, I’m not convinced that delivery manager is right, but I understand how it came about. This was never meant to be a post about job titles, it was more about describing a role that I have hired for, to help me (and others) when describing the role.

          I don’t only look at people with scrum master qualification when hiring and it saddens me that others might, as I mentioned in my reply to Victoria, I think this only helps create an industry around scrum master certifications rather than help hire the right people. The last thing I would want to do is insist that someone forks out ~£1000 before they can even apply for a job. And what about lapsed certifications, the scrum alliance say you have to pay £50 a year to keep it, something I stopped paying for years ago. I’d rather look at experience.

          The popularity of agile on CVs only goes to show the adoption of agile, people are trying to cover their bases when they look for work. I don’t think CVs always give an honest picture, so some carefully worded questions to those applying should help you filter out those that aren’t being entirely honest on CVs. This is true of any role.

          • Yeah I was just looking at CSD or CSP but while I’d like to do the course I’m not really interested in following the renewal scheme.

          • ewebber

            21 February 2016 at 12:05 pm

            It all depends on what you want to get out of it and what other routes you have to learn as to whether it’s worth doing or not.

          • Your right – buying into one of the corporate certification bodies shouldn’t be the way to go. For example one of the recruiters I use has just passed her CSM so she is now a certified ‘Scrum Master’ having never worked in IT or with agile ever. Does that mean she knows more than someone without the certification – of course it doesn’t.
            CSM is pointless but the CSP and higher are hard to achieve and take 12months+ of effort. I know that Barclays (Knutsford) view CSP as an entry gate for some of their senior Agile roles, right or wrongly.
            When I first started contracting I was up against people with 20+ years of experience so the certification route allowed me to backup my experience with the reassurance that I did really know my stuff when it came to delivering with agile. So I appreciate both sides of the discussion.
            I’ve detoured slightly away from your original topic, apologies. Just ordered your book – looking forward to giving it a read and feeding back. Great effort in such a short space of time.

          • ewebber

            21 February 2016 at 12:58 pm

            It’s a valid conversation and I think we are all in the same boat when it comes to hiring. Although I am also interested in how those that employ these roles also help build experience in the market for the benefit of everyone (one of the reasons I run Agile meetups and am such a fan of communities of practice). That’s a topic for another blog post – or rant in the pub.
            Hope you enjoy the book!

          • Pub

        • Louvanne Thomas

          12 July 2019 at 5:26 pm

          Interesting reading this thread.
          I am an experienced Senior project manager and BA and have delivered numerous projects in different industries. I have been experiencing difficulty in the current job market because I do no have the word scrum or agile all over my CV, it would appear and i do not see why I should need to.
          I have worked within an Agile environment with Sprints at one contract, but invariably as you have stated it is the organisation that has to change to an agile method of working.
          The point I am making is, because i have not acquired some additional certificates recently does not mean I do not have the skill set to coach, mentor and manage the whole project life-cycyle through to and post implementation , yet I have been seeking a role for the last 3 months. The job market has changed where CV are parsed and specific words are searched thus some qualified and expereinced people are looked over because their CV may not appear near the top of the search.

      • Santiago Valencia

        24 September 2016 at 11:01 am

        Hi Emily,
        It makes me really sad that we need to read still nowadays post/comments that are confrontational or support rejection against Scrum based on pure ignorance.

        The previous comment regarding Scrum Masters being “junior facilitators” was simply wrong. Instead of making that clear, your answer regarding the Scrum Master role making reference only to a framework makes too evident your level of knowledge about Scrum is also limited as you don’t seem to know that Scrum represents the isolation of the Lean core.

        Your mention about the £1K one needs to spend before becoming a Scrum Master tells me you don’t know about Scrum.org and that you took or looked into a first level Scrum Alliance course at a certain point in the past; this is also inline with the fact that you seem to believe that only experience counts for a “Delivery manager”, that new “agile” term that the government has put in vogue but doesn’t really mean anything in any agile movement out there.

        I bet you never reached the PSM II or the equivalent CSP level in Scrum, and I’m 100% sure you’re not a PSM III as that’s the only Scrum Expert level worldwide and based on your knowledge of it I can tell you’re just not ready.

        Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka isolated Lean’s core in January 1986 (read The New New Product Development Game research paper for more info on this). Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber took that work and improved it, since its presentation in 1995 that’s Scrum as we know it nowadays.

        Scrum has its roots in Lean. Scrum is part of Lean. I hope this idea sinks in your brain and helps you to stop supporting prejudices and rejection that other people do based on their limited knowledge, you should have point them into the right direction instead. Hate is not that direction IMHO.

        In fact, almost all agile practices (except RUP, LeSS, SAFe and DaD) comes from Lean directly or indirectly; We’re taking about a lot here: XP, Crystal, Scrum, Lean Kanban, Lean Six-Sigma, Nexus…

        IMHO It’s unbelievable you write a blog comment like this taking the position of defending one exclusive point of view by attacking/diminishing other agile practices.

        Let me tell you your approach on this is not very agile either, the agile movement do not promote confrontation among approaches in any way.

        What was the need to diminish Scrum Masters? Does that really help making a better look on “Delivery Managers”?

        Let’s try:
        In my experience “Delivery Managers” are people that most of the time do not have a development background, that were project managers or program managers in the past and jumped into the Agile wave as a way of having a life but with a very Waterfall frame of mind, most of them have no superior level of agile whatsoever, they like buzzwords but not to look into things deeply and they have forgotten completely the Agile principle of continuous improvement and this is evident by their conversations and advice, some of them also do mini-agile in their iterations and love to apply Wet-Agile and iterative waterfall in big companies. Some of them even do not feel any embarrasment to call themselves agile coaches when their level is just the “no level/no certification” level or the “really starting” level (and they stopped there as they could cash on that, what would have been the point to improve anyway?).

        Now tell me, what benefit provides me doing the above? Did this gave me – as a experienced Scrum Master – any extra value?

        I hope you argue it doesn’t, that it’s judgemental and that it doesn’t make justice to a lot of people that is working hard in the industry despite their role name …and that it probably doesn’t help how you see me under a good light after reading that. Well, same here. That’s why your approach helping to spread rejection instead of stopping it was wrong in my opinion.

        If you want to discuss this, I’m a PSM III, PSD I, PSPO and Project manager with a Masters in PM (Distinction) using PMP methodologies, a Degree in Computing 2:1, I’m PRINCE2 Practitioner certified and M_o_R certified, having more than 32 years of experience in the IT field doing roles from Jnr Developer to CTO, Project Manager and Scrum Master and I came to read your post because Jamie Arnold indicated you guys were interested in Delivery Managers in Manchester in another post I had read by casualty.

        Well, after seeing how hate spreads in your “agile” culture I think I’m off this time. I can’t help but think you should look a bit deeper into your approach to other agile practices. There is no reason to feel menace by other agile practitioners, independently on their approach to work, we should be all together.

        As I said, I’m sad this is not the case.

        • ewebber

          25 September 2016 at 6:01 am

          you clearly have some pent up aggression that you have decided to unleash on me. Firstly let me say I do not appreciate you coming to my blog and talking about hate whilst throwing accusations at me. I’m approving your long and misleading comment so that I can respond to your points as publicly as you intended them to be.

          Let’s cover the previous comments that you bring up:

          You have accused me of not defending scrum to a point that Victoria made. She said:

          “when hiring, it seems that out in the recruitment space “Scrum Master” has come to equate “junior facilitator””

          She is referring not to what she or I think a scrum master is, but her experience of dealing with the recruitment industry. I too have experienced recruiters that don’t get the role. I’m not about to tell her that her experience with recruiters is wrong.

          I’ve explained my position on using a framework in a job title, I’m not going to repeat it. I don’t think a £1k two-day course is the way to prove capability and I’ve seen job ads that require it. I look for experience and proof of good agile delivery, I wouldn’t hire someone that had only known about scrum (and nothing else) for two days to (servant) lead a team. This is a particular reference to the CSM qualification because this is what I have seen in job ads. These people would reject great candidates because they don’t have a piece of paper.

          Your accusation about my level of experience or my understanding about the origins of Agile is unfounded and shows your fondness of qualifications. To quote you “There is no reason to feel menace by other agile practitioners, independently on their approach to work, we should be all together.” – maybe you should take your own advice there. Here’s a photo of me and Jeff Sutherland in the pub enjoying a beer https://www.instagram.com/p/vP7n3bkpDP/. Does that make you feel better?

          If you think delivery managers are only project managers who have jumped on the agile bandwagon then you are very wrong. This is rude towards the many very good and very agile delivery managers that I know. Please don’t spread hatred towards everyone with a particular job title on my blog.

          And one final point of misunderstanding from you. Jamie Arnold may have written about the organisation that he works for looking for staff. I don’t work at that organisation and I know for a fact that there are women there too. They aren’t all “guys”.

          I have approved this one comment from you, but I don’t want you coming back to my blog and throwing more accusations, misinformation and hatred at me and other agile practitioners so I won’t approve anything else that isn’t constructive and polite.

          • Santiago Valencia

            25 September 2016 at 9:13 am

            Hi Emily,
            I honestly apologise, when I read it yesterday I understood you were supporting the fact that Scrum Masters found lately are “junior facilitators”.

            I did not pretend this to be public curiously but it’s also my fault not to have stated it in the message. I thought it was evident when I said we could discuss it but I also understand you could decide to discuss it in public. Now that it’s public please make my apology also public if you don’t mind.

            As you recommend, believe me I will take my own advice on board as I should have re-read Victoria’s comment at least twice and give some time before writing anything to you. I recognise that feeling we were being diminished just for being Scrum Masters infuriated me and that wasn’t the best mood to sit down and write any comment. I also recognise I should not have made you responsible for anything other person said and I apologise for that as well.

            You have misunderstood a part of my comment though, when I say “let’s try” and described the role in a “pay back” way; that was an attempt for you to see how wrong was spreading judgmental comments about other practitioners as it gives no benefit to anyone.

            Fortunately for me, it’s easy to demonstrate I do not think that of Delivery Managers, if I would what would be the point to indicate that I expected you to argue that doing so doesn’t give any benefit to me, that it was judgmental and unfair, etc? I did it only for you to recognise attacking others is not the right way to go but again, with a post so long and the way I wrote the rest I understand the misunderstanding.

            I’m not 100% certain what you really mean by sharing a photo with Jeff Sutherland but I assume you’re trying to make the point you appreciate Scrum or that Jeff was your monitor. It’s fine, this is irrelevant really, I think this is the same that when I added some of my certifications as a way to invite you to discuss if you wanted it – somehow to demonstrate I had reasons to support what I was saying – but you felt at your side that I did it because I’m fond of them. This is what the written media has.

            Again, I honestly apologise. It was totally my fault as I misinterpreted what I read but that doesn’t excuse the fact that even with that I did not do my best to make sure that I write a non-attacking comment, even more when I was criticising what I believed to be an attack to Scrum Masters in general.

          • Possibly the best, most constructive response to a fairly aggressive comment I’ve ever read. Showing one the true skills of a Delivery Manager that you can’t learn on one of Santiago’s many courses (evident in is post!)…. diplomacy.

            Look forward to reading your book.


        • ewebber

          26 September 2016 at 5:11 pm


          • Santiago Valencia

            26 September 2016 at 8:22 pm

            Thanks to you Emily for accepting my apologies.

            One thing I did not mention was that I found your article to be very good and that was the reason for deciding to read the comments below it, …then the misunderstanding happened in my side, I f* up and never said anything about the quality of your work.

            I cannot go back in time and do it better but I still can recognise your good work.

    • Hi Victoria

      I don’t have an issue with the job title (“Scrum Master”) in and of itself.

      The disconnect here for many people is that (and not by my interpretation but by definition) Agile does “Not” imply Scrum.

      The Agile principles sit outside of Scrum. Agile informs the Delivery aspects of a Project in terms of the approaches, techniques and mindset used by the Delivery team members/specialists to rapidly, incrementally, and continuously deploy product features or updates, in the most efficient way possible.

      Whereas Scrum defines the management framework (“Governance”) for said Project which is very prescriptive; simply a defined set of tools and processes) that say:

      – Facilitating meetings in a particular way
      – Progress is measured using these set metrics
      – Communication and conflict resolution in that exact way
      – Planning, reporting and task estimation in this specified format
      – etc

      It is also true that you could therefore be managing a project with Scrum, but not using Agile delivery principles. The reason for this is because the management frameworks like Scrum (and Kanban which is another popular framework) do not inform the Delivery aspects (“the How”) of an Agile project’s execution.

      Unfortunately from experience many people I have a come across ( including “Senior” Agile PMs, coaches and facilitators) can’t seem to grasp the distinction between Agile delivery principles vs Management frameworks for Agile project governance, and tend to bury their heads in the sand when challenged.

      Had a good long conversation with a friend/colleague recently on this very topic and In the future, I can see the Scrum Master title/job description (based largely off the 2.5 day CSM credential) being differentiated from a “Delivery Lead /Manager” – a highly capable and multi skilled delivery specialist with a deep mastery and understanding of all things agile. This person would naturally posses the training and capacity to also fulfil the Scrum Master role, and facilitate Scrum ceremonies, stand ups etc, as required.

      Again, this disparity between expectations, job descriptions, roles and responsibilities is largely in part because again, the topics and learnings covered in the Certified Scrum Master credential is only like 1/40th of a full Agile learning and development pathway.

      Then you have the other issue discussed elsewhere in this thread re traditional/old school PMs simply re-branding themselves as Agile PMs, Agile Program Delivery Managers etc, who for the benefit of the doubt let’s say have obtained the CSM credential; but no doubt still lacking in the depth of understanding, skill set and expertise of a truly Agile-focused practitioner.

      But I’ll leave that one. I welcome your comments or feedback 🙂

  5. Kate Streatfield

    9 February 2016 at 2:41 pm

    This a very helpful post and discussion.

    Agree with the focus on Agile but the ‘delivery support’ aspect in a non-agile organisation can be all-consuming.

    In response to Jon’s comments on ‘short term delivery focus’, I agree, but huge pressure is heaped on delivery managers to name and meet dates, accompanied by even huger pressure if they don’t meet them.

    I’m all for meeting dates, and naming dates is an important part of organisational collaboration and planning. However, it’s very tricky to manage an agile team properly, in the way Jon suggests, while being subject to ‘date first’ pressures. Inevitably you end up pushing and demanding and some Agile people resent that. They think it means you are risking just not doing things properly, and in many cases they are right.

    Non-agile governance – which most of us have – still wants a single person to grill and interrogate: the old PM role. ‘Delivery Managers are not Project Managers’ should be a very clear message to all, backed with some education on why not and some ideas as to how boards and committees could be more helpful in treating DMs in ways more likely to engender the right behaviours with their teams.

    • ewebber

      10 February 2016 at 3:40 pm

      Hi Kate,
      the delivery support part of the role does depend on the organisation. I’ve been in places where this means working with clients, places where it means reporting outwards and places where it means making sure contracts are in place and people have passes to get into the building. If it becomes overwhelming and takes the focus away from the other parts of the role and the team is suffering, that’s when other options could be considered.

      As you mention, in a large organisation education is important, change is hard and it’s particularly hard for people outside an agile team to understand the change in ways of working if no one helps them see what it means, how it affects them and how they can benefit from it. This is part of the external coaching role that a delivery manager could take.

  6. ‘huge pressure is heaped on delivery managers to name and meet dates, accompanied by even huger pressure if they don’t meet them.’

    There are too many problems created by that approach to go into here. But my worry is ‘Delivery Manager’ plays well to people that think traditional, project/fixed scope/date based thinking is a sensible way to approach software delivery.

    Delivery managers are placed under pressure to meet dates – because that’s there job, right? I’d favour a name which set a different expectation to people who have not yet made the mindset shift needed to succeed with Agile.

    • ewebber

      12 February 2016 at 8:25 am

      Although I think the naming is interesting and important (you can see my musings on it in the comment above https://emilywebber.co.uk/what-is-an-agile-delivery-manager/#comment-47982), no name will completely fix misunderstandings and how the role is perceived. That takes coaching, communication and some care.

      That aside, carrying on from my comments on naming, Jon what were your thoughts on possibilities?

      • Personally, I prefer the Spotify approach of team Agile Coach, which i think aligns better with principles/values and sets a better expectation. We can have overlapping roles of Team Coach and Enterprise Coach, which makes the different emphasis of the roles clear, but doesn’t stop people at the team level also coaching in the wider organisation and visa versa.

        There tends to be a problem team level coaches/ Scrum Masters fall into when they lack the influence needed for coaching senior management and can’t effect the change needed to gain it. An enterprise coach can become an enabler for that. The enterprise coach can also provide coaches at the team level with the coaching / support / servant leadership that they need.

        An ex colleague of mine also suggested ‘team enabler’ in this blog post, he is much more articulate than me, worth a read 😉


  7. If it was developed for the GDS, then i have all the clarity i need. The government needs to maintain the status quo through ‘managerial roles’
    A scrum master or product owner are not managers in my opinion.

  8. I have just given the most popular post on my blog “Explaining the role of a Delivery Manager” a refresh… https://t.co/qLuNgbDGoU

  9. The way in which a Delivery Manager is “used” can vary, I have worked in Projects for a number of years, and IMHO the title is now being used incorrectly as was Business Analysts.

    I think I grasp Agile working, and for me I see the Delivery Manager as exactly that, one who ensures delivery is managed by addressing issues which interfere with the production and most efficient way of doing that.

    The Delivery manager is one who give insight and in some cases foresight into the “blockers” which may or will present themselves, and can oil the wheels before they get stuck.

    The problem we sometimes come across is that of Product Owners and Delivery Managers do not have a clear understanding of their role, and as mentioned education, and experience are paramount.

    However….. depending on your organisation and method of applying Agile this can and will present its own hybrids, these are not really transferable unless you remain in the same organisation, and unfortunately the expectations of both roles can be somewhat frustrating when changing employers and even in some cases departments within the same organisation.

    I think your articles are clear and concise and again IMHO, there should be commonality of all job roles and expectations…….Do I hear the Angels?

  10. RT @ewebber: I have just given the most popular post on my blog “Explaining the role of a Delivery Manager” a refresh https://t.co/lfBA3Mbh…

  11. Hi Emily
    I really enjoyed reading your article on the role of a Delivery Manager and it’s comparison to other similiar roles. Would you be available for a chat on my lean-agile podcast?

    on iTunes

  12. Danielle Joyce

    6 March 2018 at 5:34 pm

    These are all expectations of the Scrum Master in my org. We are re-branding ourselves as “Agilist” instead of SM b/c of the stigma associated with SM.

  13. I think this is a great article that contains a lot of useful nuggets when trying to understand the Delivery Manager role. In my opinion, I see this as a facilitator role that helps especially well with organisations that are still in that transition phase from the traditional project delivery methods or have an element within their business that’s not software astute.
    It’s not a Scrum Master nor is it an Agile Coach but I feel that it sits alongside the coach role in terms of responsibility. Great article Emily!

  14. I have come across this blog article while preparing for an interview for “delivery lead manager” role. Reading the comments was as interesting as the article. It has given me confidence that despite not possessing the qualifications this is not an absolute requirement over experience.
    It is quite inspirational to learn of the multiple views of different people and validates the blog and the comments.
    Thank you for educating me.

  15. This article explaining the role of the delivery manager is my go to place to explain to people what I do and has been incredibly helpful as we’ve had a new DM start with us recently. That venn diagram is so good and it’s so so helpful.

    So thank you, hugely hugely appreciate it!

  16. Show me where in the Scrum guide where it refers to a deliver manager. The team are responsible for delivery and the Scrum master is responsible for removing impediments. This title was made up to effectively rebrand project managers and make them seem more agile. ADMs in my organisation just add to the bureaucracy of a team and certainly don’t add any value. If you feel that you need an ADM for an agile team to deliver then you are doing agile wrong, have no trust or have the wrong skill set in the team.

    • ewebber

      15 January 2020 at 12:13 pm

      Hi Michael, it sounds like you have had some challenges with how the term delivery manager is used in your organisation. I will clarify a little for you, my use of delivery manager in this post is not as well as a scrum master, it covers and expands on that role, whilst being framework agnostic. This is why GDS did not have delivery managers on top of scrum masters.

      The delivery manager I describe, is a day to day member of the team working collaboratively with other team members and not a layer of bureaucracy over the top of a team.

  17. Excellent article Emily. Very well elaborated. In my experience (have worked several years for a number of Government departments in the UK) I would say that an Agile Delivery Manager or better a Delivery Lead title role is more appropriate than a Scrum Master. As you and some others have pointed out that Scrum Master gives an indication of a framework-specific individual as opposed to an Agile practitioner. Further, in the public sector, you can’t afford to have a lax attitude towards delivery as you are dealing with taxpayer money. At the end of the day role title isnt important. Whether you are a SM or an ADM, you should strive in helping your delivery team delivering value to the end customer in the most effective way.

  18. Thank you for this article! I’m a newly promoted Agile Delivery Lead with no training. I’m the first person at my company to get the role and your article is really helpful for me to understand what my job will entail. At the end you state “…There is a lot more detail behind each of these areas, which I’m happy to discuss further….” I would love to see some follow up articles on this topic, or at a minimum one with a list of ways that someone like me with no training and no mentor can get up to speed.

    • ewebber

      31 July 2020 at 3:34 pm

      Hi Amy, thanks for your comment. Two things that I would recommend to help you on your journey in your new role:
      1) find some meet-ups, there are so many out there! (Including mine agileintheether.co.uk). Meet-ups are a great place to learn more and connect with others in a similar field
      2) find a mentor, this doesn’t need to be someone in your organisation and can start with having chats with a few interesting people. Some of who you will find at meet-ups

  19. Great article Emily. In my 30+ year career I’ve been a project manager, scrum master, delivery manager, programme manager and delivery director both for internal organisations and in customer facing roles.

    The job title is not something that really matters to me – it will change from organisation to organisation. What doesn’t change is the fact that the 3 things you call out are important roles/things that need to be in place for a high performing team.

    I work for an organisation that embraces agile but sometimes we have to work with customers who aren’t there yet or need coaching or where we can’t just throw terminology like agile, scrum or lean at them but just have to ‘show’ them the way or use language they understand.

    Your description of the role of a DM exactly encompasses the skills I’m looking for when hiring good people to lead projects or teams and they’re hard to find. I find people who are great agile coaches, know all the theory and all the techniques but can’t actually apply them in the real world to deliver successfully in a commercial environment. I can find project managers who will put together a plan and drive the team hard to hit dates etc, from a management perspective but not as a servant leader and then health and happiness suffers. I can find people who can run a project and make people really happy and who are very popular with the client and team but isn’t able to move from a ‘good’ team to a ‘high performing’ team because they lack the knowledge/skills (or desire to acquire the skills). I have to have strong delivery governance as from a company perspective it’s important we track commercials like margin, revenue, utilisation, project risk, commercial agreements. I have to have great leaders because we want to grow as an organisation and have our values and beliefs spread across the company. I have to have people who really care about our people because we are a people business and they are our most valuable asset without which nothing else good can happen. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be a single person who takes on those responsibilities – you could easily have someone in a development or QA or UX or Design role who is passionate about agile and lean practices and takes that role on a team. However in my view the ‘delivery manager’ needs to understand all 3 pillars are important and why and is responsible for bringing together a team who can ensure those 3 things are in place. They can ask for outside help as well.

    I’m also sorry for some of the ‘hate’ comments on your post – I admire anyone who puts themselves out there and share thoughts and experiences. If you’ve not read it I recommend https://www.amazon.co.uk/Human-Side-Agile-Help-Deliver/dp/0988001624/ – great book

    • ewebber

      10 December 2020 at 7:58 am

      Thanks Wendy, I’m glad the definition chimes with you. I know of a few orgs that have linked to this post in job postings to help them hire the right people too.

  20. Great article Emily, thanks 🙂
    Let’s imagine a situation where we have a Delivery Manager and Scrum Master in one project.
    How to define roles and responsibilities for them, so they could effectively work instead of disturbing each other?

    • Emily Webber

      16 December 2022 at 2:10 pm

      Hi Marzena, I wouldn’t have both of those roles on a team together; there is too much overlap. I would only have a delivery manager, a delivery manager should be able to coach the team on ways of working, including techniques from the Scrum framework if those are the most appropriate.

  21. This article provided a comprehensive explanation of the role of an Agile Delivery Manager. It’s a must-read for anyone interested in understanding this crucial role in agile teams.

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