Taking Farmers to Markets Service Delivery Handbook

Delivery manager

The delivery manager is responsible for making sure the team is set up to deliver.

The role includes:

  • helping the team to create an environment of continuous improvement
  • making sure what's in the backlog can be delivered
  • removing blockers and obstacles for the team
  • supporting governance, finances, resourcing and procurement.

Delivery managers often help facilitate regular team agile events, like sprint planning and retrospectives.

# Delivery managers are not project managers

If you're new to agile teams, it's important not to think of the delivery manager as a project manager. There are some significant differences.

Compared to a project manager, delivery managers:

  • are part of the team for the long haul, not just a single project
  • play an enabling role for the team over directing the work
  • are responsible for the ways of working and team health, not just the timeframes and deliverables.

# Supporting continuous improvement

The most important role the delivery manager plays in the team is in supporting a culture of continuous improvement.

For teams to successfully take an agile approach, the foundations need to be in place to allow for regular ideation, delivery and testing in short feedback loops.

This isn't just about mindset. There are some 'hard' enablers too, like:

  • creating a physical working environment for the team that supports agile activities
  • setting up testing, change and deployment processes that help the team to release software frequently
  • making sure insights from users are regularly making their way into planning.

# Making sure the sprint can be delivered

It's the delivery manager's job to make sure the team commits to the right amount of work each sprint. Too little, and the team will finish up the work early. Too much, and the team won't meet their sprint goals.

It's normal for this to create a healthy tension between the product manager and delivery manager: the product manager wants to deliver as much as possible in a sprint, and the delivery manager wants to make sure that what's in the backlog can actually get done.

Teams that have worked together for enough sprints will get better at estimating the effort required for a given user story, and be able to calculate the 'velocity' of the team: the total effort the team can reasonably deliver in a sprint.

# Removing blockers

No delivery team gets far without encountering obstacles in their path.

This might be:

  • an unexpected dependency with another team
  • a technical or operational hurdle
  • a last-minute issue raised by a stakeholder.

In these situations, the delivery manager takes on the 'blockers', working to remove them so the team can continue to deliver.

Great delivery managers develop an eye for spotting potential blockers on the horizon, and are able to head them off at the pass before they hit the team.