Value of a Project Manager for App Development

Value of a Project Manager for App Development

Just like racing cars are engineered to come first to the finish line, the custom software solutions are built to help you reach the desired business results as soon as possible. 

And, regardless of the engineering brilliance, just like it’s impossible to win the race without a professional racer behind a steering wheel, the probability of creating a successful app without a software development project manager is close to zero.

Software project manager responsibilities

Shortly speaking, the three main duties of a software development project manager are to

  • plan and lead the project
  • manage the team
  • keep the client satisfied with the development outcomes.

However, to cope with them a PM needs to complete several tasks which depend on the team composition, the project itself, the processes within the company the PM works for, etc.

For example, if the project is small and there’s no business analyst, the PM is responsible for gathering the software requirements. 

In case there’s no HR, the PM takes care of hiring new people for the team.

Some projects also require product owner skills.

The value of a project manager consists in keeping the healthy balance of both 

  • achieving the gains for the team and the company, e.g. avoiding overbudget as the company may need to pay the difference, 
  • and satisfying the client’s needs.


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What makes a good project manager for app development

Those are not the inborn skills that make a good project manager, but the experience that shapes them. 

In addition to excellent communication skills, the PM needs to be flexible, open to new ideas and different perspectives, and agile to steer the project in the right direction at any point of its development.

The good PM should 

  • forecast the project uncertainties 
  • be that person who leads the team, even when meeting some unpredicted hardships
  • come up with solutions to the problems, and the software development project plan quickly
  • aim for the synergy within the team, and its alignment with the client’s goals
  • be able to write mobile app rfp
  • keep detailed and up-to-date project documentation that is accessible to relevant team members
  • take responsibility for their decisions.

Again, these PM skills are guided by experience. Making mistakes at the beginning of the professional journey is natural, as they simply may be not obvious back then. It’s the ability to take lessons from the previous projects, and continuous improvement that are truly valuable.

What are KPIs in project management

Being easy to measure and assess, key performance indicators (KPIs) tremendously help project manager to 

  • understand the current state of the software development project
  • analyze the tendencies throughout the completed milestones
  • timely forecast of the potential risks and bottlenecks
  • apply data-driven decisions for planning future project milestones.

The main KPIs in app development project management include the following 👇

Velocity of the team shows how much time it takes to complete the milestones. It can be defined as the amount of work done within an iteration or a sprint. Velocity measures the team's productivity and helps in predicting future milestones completion.

Burn-down/burn-up charts graphically represent the work completed versus work remaining over time. Such visual representation of project progress helps to assess the team’s ability to stick to the budget and schedule, as well as to identify trends and potential issues.

Earned value (EV) is the percentage of completion of tasks or milestones multiplied by their planned budgeted cost.

Actual cost (AC) is the sum of all costs, including labor, materials, equipment, overhead, etc., that have been expended on the project. It is a factual measure of the resources used to complete the work.

Cost performance index (CPI) equals the ratio of earned value to the actual cost. 



  • CPI = 1: Indicates that the project is on budget. The value of the work performed is equal to the actual cost.
  • CPI > 1: Indicates a favorable situation where the project is under budget. The earned value exceeds the actual cost, suggesting cost efficiency.
  • CPI < 1: Indicates an unfavorable situation where the project is over budget. The actual cost exceeds the earned value, suggesting cost overruns.


It provides valuable insights into how efficiently the project team is using resources to accomplish the planned work. CPI also helps the project manager to predict the budget use and detect if and where the project is falling behind. It’s especially useful for larger projects where such things may be not obvious due to the scope complexity.

Defect density corresponds to the number of defects or bugs identified per unit of code. It measures the code quality and spots areas that may require improvement.

Code review metrics include review time, number of comments per review, and review coverage. They help with assessing the effectiveness of code reviews in maintaining code quality and knowledge sharing.

Test coverage equals the percentage of the codebase covered by automated tests. It indicates the comprehensiveness of digital quality assurance and identifies the areas that may need additional testing.

Customer satisfaction can be assessed through the feedback from end-users or stakeholders about the product. It measures how well the delivered product meets user expectations and needs.

Escaped defects are those discovered by users after the product is released. Their number and general impact indicates the effectiveness of testing and the overall quality of the product.

Budget variance is the difference between the planned budget and the actual expenditures. 

Actual release date: the project release should take place within the set timeframe and should not exceed the planned budget. 

With these KPIs on their fingertips, the software project manager can successfully navigate the application development, so its results match the client’s goals and expectations.

PM’s involvement in software development workflow

The PM’s involvement may start at the presale phase of a software development workflow to assist with approximate resource plan and estimates. Of course, those documents will certainly lack precision. To form them properly, software development vendor requires informative input about the product from the client.

Discovery phase in project management

It is the discovery phase of a project, when the BA elicits the detailed software requirements, and the PM provides the implementation roadmap and effort estimation. It takes the input from the Tech Lead to learn about the approximate expected development timeline and cost. The other project discovery phase deliverables provide invaluable information for project management and for overall success of the developed digital solution.

After the discovery phase both the development team and the client are ready for the project kickoff. 

Project kickoff meeting agenda

The role of software project manager can’t be overestimated when it comes to the beginning of the development stage. The PM should establish transparent and open communication between the team and the stakeholders, as it’s the cornerstone of their efficient collaboration. 

In general, for the PM the project kickoff meeting agenda consists of the following steps 👇

  1. Get acquainted with the project stakeholders. Find out which part of the project each of them is responsible for. Form a stakeholder matrix in case there are several stakeholders. It will contribute to a more clear and effective future communication.  

  2. Introduce the team which is going to work on the project.

  3. Discuss the deliverables.

  4. Introduce the timeline.

  5. Agree upon the communication approaches and channels (e.g. Slack, email updates, comments in Figma, etc.)

  6. Explain the reporting system to keep the client well-informed about the project’s progress. Reason and discuss what the reports should include and their frequency (e.g. weekly reports, sprint reports, etc.)

  7. Provide information about the next steps in development, including the action items for each of the team members, and expected time of their completion.

  8. The PM should keep the meeting notes to save the key points of the meeting, so they can be accessed whenever needed in the future. 

  9. The PM should send the follow-up email with the meeting notes to the client, so that they can always double check what were the meeting outcomes.

How to manage further communication in software development

Communication management is one of the most important means the project managers use to reach the software development goals.

Daily team meetings are necessary to keep the team on one page. They inform about each other’s current tasks, progress, and help to mitigate risks and manage the struggles effectively together. At Apiko, clients are welcomed to join these meetings, however, it’s not necessary and up to them.

The frequency of sync and demo calls with the client depends on 

  • their schedule and preferences 
  • complexity of the project
  • size of the team and dynamics of the software development. 

A good practice is to organize further meetings just with the team members directly involved in the process that will be discussed. There is no need to gather the whole team each time, as it won’t add to the efficiency, but will decrease the project budget.

Communication challenges and how to deal with them

As a rule, a person ready to develop their own software product has already achieved significant professional results, and doubtlessly is an expert in their field. However, sometimes it becomes an obstacle for taking into account other people’s opinion. It’s necessary for the PM to communicate and reason their concerns, as well as to make sure the project stakeholders have heard their suggestions. 

A typical example is providing UI/UX design services when, besides the client’s preferences, a designer has to follow certain rules and UI/UX design best practices, e.g. keep in mind spacing between the buttons and other elements, their positioning, etc. An efficient way for the PM to reason the design or business logic decisions, and to build the client’s trust is to demonstrate similar solutions implemented by recognised companies, e.g. Uber, eBay, etc.

Let’s wrap it up!

Managing software development is a lot like planning a business trip: you have to get to your destination within the shortest time possible, while finding the balance between the price, services reliability and quality, and overall comfort and convenience.

In custom application engineering, the PM takes care of

  • software project planning
  • tasks prioritization and making sure the team’s efforts correspond to the client’s goals and needs
  • navigating the team though the milestones
  • managing the risks 
  • keeping to high quality standards
  • delivering the product that satisfies the customer’s needs and goals within the set budget and timeline.

Having it all together, up and running, and under full control are the key responsibilities of the project manager for app development.