What is a Delivery Manager, and what do they do?

A role familiar to many. However, for a long time, many have wondered, what does a Delivery Manager actually do? What is their scope, and can their role be merged with another?

By definition, a Delivery Manager is the person who makes sure that the Product is delivered. It is the bridge between the Product team and the Technology team. A Product Manager, or Head of Product, has the primary responsibility for generating the “form” of any product or service to be delivered and, as a result, the overall management of the product. 

Currently, a Delivery Manager is in charge of creating product backlogs, and keeping them refined, estimated, and prioritised. 

These are artefacts of the Agile Product Development and Delivery Principles, but focussing on these artefacts is not the primary role of a Product Manager or Head of Product. They need to constantly ask questions, validate all their products, and because the activities related to this are all-consuming, they need the Delivery Manager to ensure that the daily operation of the team is carried out:

  1. Facilitate forms of work. For example, if the team has decided to work in an agile way, the DM is the one who ensures that this way of working is followed to the letter.
  2. Create an environment conducive to continuous improvement of the way the team works.
  3. Allow visibility of project progress and help the PM or HoP communicate progress to stakeholders.
  4. Include processes within the team, such as risk management, time tracking, task dependencies, etc.
  5. Organisation of the team to be involved in processes such as planning and estimation in order to give the Product Manager a macro-level view of the relative size of the features and an indication of when they can have them.
  6. Tracking of project spending, which gives the PM or HoP valuable information about the cost of his project, thus helping with future planning.
  7. Facilitate conflict resolution (because when you have a large group of highly qualified experts, different opinions can be generated that lead to different conflicts).
  8. Remove any impediments that could divert the team from its main function.
  9. Be aware that the focus is not lost in the development of the product and that no deviations are generated.

Also, a very important role that the Delivery Manager plays (or might have to play) is as a coach. That is why many organisations have the role of Delivery Manager supporting their product’s areas.

Keep in mind that each team member brings a particular skill to the collective to contribute to the success of the product, and presumably would be an expert in that field. What they probably won’t be so good at is how to function in the “particular way of working” the team has chosen. The Delivery Manager has a responsibility to deepen their knowledge and understanding of that “way of working” in order to provide the team with the tools they need to achieve it.

In Summary

Using a football reference, a Delivery Manager must be ready to play the ‘4’, the ‘9’ or the Goalkeeper. They must cultivate relationships outside of the team with people who can help unlock any future issues to make sure the team can deliver the product. In short, a Delivery Manager creates a good working environment that focusses on supporting the team to produce a product.