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What does an agile program manager actually do?

Digitization is changing our working world. This creates new professions and job descriptions. But what is behind the designations? We want to make that tangible in “And what are you doing?” Today: Antonia Maedel, Agile Program Manager at Publicis Sapient.

BASIC thinking: Hello Antonia, you work as an Agile Program Manager Publicis sapient. Describe to us how you explain your job to friends.

My job as a program manager essentially comprises two areas. On the one hand, I am responsible for the “classic” project management. I act as a control authority between the team, time, budget and communication. On the other hand, it is my job to ensure that agility is lived within the project.

This means ensuring that the project or product team continuously improves and contributes to the realization of the customer’s corporate strategy. It is essential to create a basis that enables data-based decisions.

This is the only way to meet the changing requirements of the target group in the long term. My job is to optimize all aspects of these two core areas as part of a project. I am the main interface between our team at Publicis Sapient and the customer.

Agile Program Manager: The start of the day

What does a normal day at your job look like?

There really is no such thing as a “normal” day. My job is extremely varied, challenging and fulfilling. I continuously make sure that our team has everything they need to successfully deliver the project.

At the same time, I make sure that the customer has everything they need to be able to act successfully in the project context. The focus is always on the results to be achieved through the collaboration.

My job is to make sure that we work together with the client towards these results in the best possible way. It is particularly important to act transparently and based on data. This is the only way for the customer and the team to gain a unified view of the results achieved and to be achieved.

And what do you start the day with?

I usually start my day with a coffee and a look at the calendar. That’s how I keep track. I prepare for the upcoming meetings, check one last time that all relevant stakeholders have been invited and check whether all the required documents and materials are available.

The tasks as Agile Program Manager

What tasks are in your area?

My range of tasks is very diverse and varies over the course of the project. I am responsible for the operational planning, implementation, management and realization of projects. At the beginning I am responsible for the preparation of the offer.

My job is to make sure that all aspects of the project are taken into account. I deal with the basic factors, such as what the future team needs to look like, what results can be achieved by when, what working methods we use and so on.

As soon as Publicis Sapient has received the order, I put the team together with our staffing department and familiarize the colleagues with the full scope of the project. Together with the client and the team, I work out the results to be achieved and make sure that we stick to the agreed working methods.

In day-to-day project work, I am then responsible for keeping an eye on the budget, ensuring that communication between the team and the customer is going well and that milestones are met. It is important for understanding milestones that it is only about which results are made possible by the achievement of a milestone.

It’s not about “stubbornly” working through a catalog of requirements, as was often the case with previous project management methods. Our agile approach leads to creative solutions that continuously improve the product without losing sight of the customer’s goals. At the end of the project, it’s my job to accompany the final acceptance by the customer and finally to celebrate the successful completion with the team.

Definition: Agile program manager

How do you personally define and interpret your job as an Agile Program Manager?

I see it as my intrinsic task to ensure that the team and the customer have everything they need to be successful in the project context. My goal is to create the conditions for everyone to be able to work optimally. This applies to the team as a whole as well as to the individual colleagues involved.

It is important to me to know every team member and to create a basis of trust. Only then can positive and negative topics be addressed and tackled freely and without hesitation at any time. In my opinion, organizational talent and structure play just as important a role in project management as empathy. My job is to empower, inspire and motivate the team.

How is your position integrated into the company structure? Talk to whom do you report and who do you work with?

At Publicis Sapient, I have a “people manager” at my side from a disciplinary point of view. This person within the company helps me to shape my career and develop myself further.

Within the project, I report internally to the account manager and externally to the customer. Depending on the size of the project, I work with one or more teams. These teams are interdisciplinary and include very different roles – tailored to the respective customer needs.

Of course, the role of the program manager is interpreted differently in every company. What perspectives are you missing out on that are fundamentally part of the job profile?

Especially in the digital environment, many things are changing rapidly. It is therefore important to also understand the medium and long-term strategy of the customer. This is the only way I can ensure that the project will continue to deliver the right results in the future.

In some customer or project situations, however, it is difficult to find the time for this. I try to consciously push this exchange of information over the course of the project.

Time is also the limiting factor in further training measures. As a program manager, I always have to stay on the ball and learn about agile working methods. I am grateful that Publicis Sapient, as an employer, gives the necessary space for appropriate training and certification.

Fun and gratitude at work

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The togetherness and the people. I am fortunate to be able to work with very different colleagues from different disciplines and regions every day.

Despite this diversity, I can trust that we all have the same quality standards for our work. This is how work is fun. Big and small successes are duly celebrated with us.

What are you particularly grateful for?

I am grateful that at Publicis Sapient I work with people who fully support me and challenge me at the same time. My colleagues ensure that I continuously learn new things.

In the digital industry in particular, there is often no longer a classic education. How did you get your position?
In fact, I ended up in the digital industry in a roundabout way.

I started my professional career in energy trading and then became a program manager at Publicis Sapient through various stations in different digitization projects.

What tip would you give to newcomers or interested career changers who also want to become Agile Program Managers?

If you want to gain a foothold in program management, you have to deal with the concept of agility. It is essential to acquire the appropriate mindset, methodologies and vocabulary. In addition, a portion of organizational talent and sociability should not be missing. At the end of the day, the job is always about the people. You should enjoy building a trusting environment around the team.

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