I'm going through the interview process for a "PM" position at a certain company. From what I can tell PMs go to meetings and make Gantt charts all day. So...

What do project/program managers do all day?

p.s. I heard on the SO podcast that this question received a good # of answers and votes yet it was deleted... so I'm asking it again :-]


A great project manager understands/does:

  • the top level goals of the project (bird's eye view)
  • manages the timeline of the project and its components
  • understands some/most of the details in various technologies and project components
  • reports to higher levels of management and the user base
  • protects the uninterrupted time of the workers


The hardest thing to do as a project manager is to say "no" to more features.

The next hardest thing is to balance the time spent on new features/bug fixes with their importance to the project.


They interrupt my flow by asking me for my TPS report..


The best way I can sum it up is the PM is a liason / communication gateway btw the development and business teams. The PM sits between the two as a translation layer. Everything else they do is to support this goal.

  • Josh



The PM is there to listen to and balance needs, requests and wishes from below and above his position.
Some days he is a liaison , others a firefighter.



  • Read email
  • Delegate work
  • Filter client's silliness out of the requirements
  • Read more email

To summarize:

  1. Have a clear understanding of the "ultimate goal" of the project.
  2. Effectively manage the resources and constraints both instrumental and detrimental to the project success.
  3. Establish milestones throughout the project progression.
  4. Keep the project team on task.
  5. Circumnavigate the unforeseen issues which will arise throughout the course of the project.
  6. Keep upper management up-to-date on project status.

You could go on for a while... the links that have been posted cover all of those finer points. I just highlighted some of the things I've seen/experienced in my career thus far.


Manage and Communicate.

There is that saying that an good developer can be 10x as productive as an average one, to which I usually add: "on a good day".

In that context, your job is to make sure your developers have many good days.

For the developers, make sure they know each day exactly what they should work on, and get any obstacles to that out of the way. Don't be that obstacle. Show enough technical understanding that they are willing to talk to you, and be open about what you don't understand so they trust you.

Towards management, be the interface to the developers, translate the wishes of the management into change requests and release schedules, translate the developers concerns and estimates into required ressources and delivery dates.


They spend a lot of time in meetings (at bigger companies)

  1. Budget meetings, they are involved in setting up budget/manpower estimates for projects and presenting to upper management and changing the project plan based on money cuts or "throwing money at the problem".

  2. Meetings with the project team to say where are we, when will this be done, etc...

  3. Meetings with the business on long term plans to lay down future projects and to adjust that schedule.

  4. They often develop the overall scope of a project on a high level working with the business analysts.

  5. They often meet with the customer, lead any demos, negotiate on features, decide which features to drop/etc..

  6. When a normal employee (developer) hits a stumbling block they help the developer to overcome it (dropping a feature, getting a new technology, having the business analyst clarify the requirements, encouraging discussions with others on other approaches, etc...).

Basically the project manager is accountable for the project and the client/upper managements' expectations on the project. They are often in charge of the scope and for deciding what does and does not get delivered. They also are in charge of the red tape when necessary and controlling resources on the project. Typically they are included in long term plans constantly giving estimated resources/time for projects to help the business people (not that the project manager is not often a business person himself/herself) plan.

Often one project manager gets many projects. If you add up all the time spent in meetings between the project team, stakeholders, and upper management there really isn't that much time left in a project manager's day. If a project manager is only in charge of a single project then I agree what do they do all day? But at my last company that had a ton of projects there were 2 managing all the projects going on in the department so they were pretty overloaded.


The most important role they play is, to shield the team from grumpy clients and face the bone heads themselves.

Delegating tasks, planning and the rest can be learnt; communicating properly - is innate


Do you mean this question?


Determine where the greatest project risks are and focus on those. This could take the form of following up on deliverables, ensuring the developers have the tools they need, gathering additional details on the requirements, setting expectations with the client and /or sponsors, ensuring everyone is effectively communicating.

A well run, well organized group does not really need a project manager. A PM is there to ensure the greatest probability of delivering the product at the least cost.


Maybe the question will/should be deleted this time? What programmers do all day?