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I’m writing this because I find myself spending a lot more time lately explaining to potential clients what development project managers actually do, why they need to hire one unless they’re equipped to manage developers themselves, and why good project management is something you should consider paying for.

The Problem That Project Managers Solve

You have a great developer that you communicate well with. Why would you add to your costs by hiring a project manager? Because time and time again, I’ve seen the biggest long-term cost to clients is something besides the developer’s expensive hourly rates. It’s miscommunication, and clients are usually knee-deep into an iteration (and $1,000s of dollars in the hole) before they realize they’re not immune to it. Clients tend to think of project managers as a middleman to cut out, but a good project manager is there to save you money on preventable, expensive mistakes.

Project Managers Do Everything Besides Whip

Great project managers are like diplomats between two nations that don’t share language or culture. They deliver immaculately clear wireframes, organize design sprints to put a fully designed prototype on paper that clients like and has evidence of traction before developers write a single line of code, compile technical specifications that developers can read as user stories, and enforce a frequent feedback loop between developers and clients so both sides know exactly what’s going on at each step of the way.

I like to say that with software development, everything is fine until it’s not, and then it quickly plummets into a total disaster. It’s when something isn’t designed or built as you envisioned or it is built as you envisioned but you realize you want something different only afterward, that the value of a great project manager becomes extremely obvious.

Why Topflight No Longer Offers Free Project Management

A lot of overseas firms don’t charge for project management. I believe all the good ones do. Once upon a time, my team at Topflight offered pro bono project management as well, but we have since stopped this once we realized that doing so was not only offering a disservice to our clients since we couldn’t maintain a high level of service for free indefinitely. Great project managers consistently exhibit 3 qualities: they’re dedicated to a project management role, they have coding experience, and they have prior experience managing development teams. Think about these 3 qualities and ask yourself if someone that has all of these would work for margins or commissions. Topflight charges clients by the hour for project management so that we can hire the best project managers to match the quality of our rigorously-vetted designers and developers. Harboring no weak links is the only way we can build mobile apps that effectively reach millions of users.

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