A Quick Guide To Engineering Project Management [2023]

Believe it or not– the biggest challenges with engineering project management aren’t technical. 

When it comes to developing any products, managing the entire software development lifecycle– to create a product that people love– requires more than just a deep understanding of the engineering processes. You must make many decisions throughout the project lifecycle, including choosing the tech, drafting the scope, and allocating engineering resources.

For those who just transitioned from a developer to an engineering project manager, it’s like transitioning from a player to a coach in a sport. You are no longer an individual contributor– every decision you make will shape the success of your team. Having a strong technical background only won’t help you make the cut; to succeed, you will likely need a combination of great leadership and communication skills.

Below is a short guide on how to deliver great engineering projects and drive your team towards success– from the engineering team at Tara 🚀

What is Engineering Project Management

Engineering project management focuses on planning, directing, and coordinating the efforts of engineers to deliver a project successfully. Engineers working in this capacity often collaborate with other professionals, such as developers, designers, and UX specialists

Engineering project management aims to ensure that projects are completed on time, within budget, and according to the specifications set forth by the stakeholder.

The Role of An Engineering Project Manager

Before we dive into how to be a good engineering project manager (PM), let’s take a look at what being an engineering PM actually means.

As mentioned above, engineering project management is a type of project management that focuses on engineering but goes beyond the management of just the engineers or their work.

An engineering project manager needs to make sure that:

  • every team member, whether technical or non-technical, on the project delivers real value
  • they remain in control of project progress
  • the team operates with a clear sense of purpose
  • the plan is realistic and aligned with the company’s strategic objectives
  • there is cost management in place that prevents going over the budget

In short, engineering project managers must ensure that their team has the best resources to do their work while facilitating smooth communication between team members and other stakeholders. To succeed as an engineering project manager, you must be able to handle all aspects of a project from start to finish– including non-technical tasks.

Engineering Management vs. Engineering Project Management

Don’t mistake engineering project management for engineering management. They may seem similar, but there are key differences between the two.

Engineering project management is set on the bigger picture where the team lead manages both engineering and non-engineering tasks. On the other hand, engineering management focuses more on the technical details and evaluating the work of the engineers.

The job of project engineering managers is to supervise ongoing engineering tasks that should be completed regardless of the project lifecycle. These tasks they supervise are a part of regular business operations and are more detail-oriented. That’s why an engineering manager should have greater knowledge of the technical aspects of the tasks.

On the other hand, engineering project managers drive the success of the overall project. An engineering project manager oversees the entire project life cycle, from the initial sprint planning meeting until the project completion. Their main focus isn’t code quality or developer efficiency– engineering PMs are on the team to ensure everyone can deliver the result on time and within the budget. 

Some responsibilities of the lead project manager include:

  • Ensuring that all projects are delivered within scope and budget
  • Creating project documentation
  • Tracking project progress
  • Coordinating resources
  • Managing changes to project scope

💡 To put it simply, an engineering project manager is like a guardian angel of all employees involved in the project – they manage time, costs, and risks so that engineers can focus on their job.

What Skills Do You Need For Engineering Project Management

To succeed as an engineering project manager, you may need some fundamental management skills such as problem-solving, knowing how to apply an appropriate management style to the team, cultivate positive scrum values, and take a leadership position in the group.

Below are some of the most necessary skills for an engineering PM:

  • communications
  • planning and scoping
  • cost estimation and budgeting
  • risk management
  • quality assurance
  • stakeholder management
  • procurement
  • process integration

Clearly, the fundamentals of managing engineering projects are the same as for any other project. However, working with engineers requires a certain level of technical knowledge to deliver successful projects. For example, they should be familiar with user story mapping, defining product requirements, and sprint planning, among others.

💡 Keep in mind that most of these skills are learned over time by working actively in the field. Courses related to engineering project management make this career path a bit easier to navigate, but hands-on experience is the best teacher. You can always succeed as an engineering project manager without an engineering background 🙂

Bonus tips for Engineering Project Managers

Managing complex engineering projects isn’t easy, especially if your team is fully distributed (like us). Here are 4 tips that our team found valuable when it comes to engineering project management:

  • Always set solid goals for your team to remove any uncertainty around what is expected of your team members. It also improves remote communications, maintains productivity, and makes it easier to track progress. One way of doing it is to set monthly milestones then break it down into weekly sprints. Planning 1–2 sprints ahead enables you to optimize your resources and efficiently assign tasks while still remaining agile.
  • Promote a collaborative environment by setting up discussions. Create dedicated channels for separate groups, topics, sprints, etc. as needed to encourage internal conversations. This is a great way to improve communication and provide resources to your team in one central place.
  • Find a smart way to keep track of team progress. As an engineering project manager, you will need to choose the right tech stack for your team. By using the right software and solid work structures, you can track your team’s progress and keep a handle on how things are going without constantly nagging for updates. At Tara, we use naming systems, documentation, tagging, and workflow, among other things, to keep a handle on who’s working on what, who had it last, who’s getting it next.
  • Lastly but not least, don’t micromanage. We believe in actively cultivating a friendly, collaborative, and communicative work environment to help empower and encourage our team. This is the key to driving your team towards achieving your goals.
tips for engineering project managers

How to Choose the Right Engineering Project Management Tool

Engineering project management is a complex topic involving various skills. If anything goes sideways, the project manager needs to be able to get the project back on track with minimal loss in resources. That’s why using project management software can be a tremendous help in managing day-to-day engineering tasks.

Many teams are integrating engineering project management software with their existing workflows as they can bring project management to another level. They offer a variety of useful features such as analytics, flexible project views, and monitoring progress that will help you plan out the process and communicate with team members efficiently. 

When choosing a tool, remember that good project management software should be usable by all team members and stakeholders. This is why, apart from its functionalities, you should also take into account several other factors, such as:

  • Ease of use,
  • Integration options,
  • File storage capacity,
  • Ability to scale as your team expands
  • Costs

An example of a good engineering project management platform is Tara. This product delivery platform features a modern, zero-config interface and a suite of powerful features to help agile teams plan sprints, track progress, and ship faster.

Tara offers integrations with GitHub, GitLab, or Slack to help teams collaborate from requirement to release in one platform. It syncs to your Git pull request workflow and automatically updates task statuses in real-time. With this bi-directional sync, you can plan sprints and manage issues across multiple repos and teams.

Tara- engineering project management tool for modern teams

If you’re looking for a tool to make engineering project management seamless and more efficient, sign up for Tara today!