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Managing numerous in-house and outsourced development teams within a long-term strategic partnership is too big of a burden to bear. Who on earth can seamlessly assemble project teams, establish smooth communication between them, mitigate risks, and give strategic advice on software development at a scale of two and more full-fledged projects? 

A software delivery manager can become your silver bullet for dealing with a diverse range of challenges. What value does this role bring to a project, and in which scenarios is a need for a service delivery manager non-negotiable? 

Our leading delivery managers and the head of the Delivery unit have given in-depth, yet easy-to-grasp answers to those questions.

Who is a software delivery manager? 

The delivery manager (DM) at the software services company is a multifaceted expert responsible for customer engagement success. The Delivery Manager ensures the client gets a digital product that fully meets their technological and business expectations. The cooperation spans over multiple projects. 

Usually, delivery managers are senior and lead specialists with tech, strategizing, and project coordination backgrounds and 8+ years of proven experience in a managing position. 

A role with such an impressive track record may look like an eye-catching marketing hook that turns into a pumpkin the moment those delivery management specialists have to deal with real-life head-scratchers on the projects. So do those unicorns even exist? 

Professionals whose background and accomplishments speak for themselves arise in companies known for decades-long experience in digital product engineering and building their own delivery frameworks

Delivery framework

Four scenarios when a service delivery manager is a mandatory role

As a DM has a knack for tackling a broad range of tasks, this role will resonate with your needs if you:

  • Have several project teams. The delivery manager is at the helm of efficient strategic oversight of different development teams and talent rotation to achieve desirable outcomes.
  • Need to align in-house and outsourced development. With a massive backlog hanging over your head, you might seek support from the outside to bring all your project ideas to life. By delegating some engineering initiatives to dedicated teams outside your company, you’ll need a high-level role, such as a DM, to ensure efficient collaboration between in-house and outsourcing teams.
  • Require industry-specific knowledge. A delivery manager with years-long hands-on experience in your business domain or related fields is a guarantee that your projects are moving in the right direction and will bring you the expected results.  
  • Look for a long-term strategic partnership. DM’s participation in planning sessions and their ability to delve into the business and technical aspects of the future digital product and then combine them is a sure-fire way to broaden the horizons for your products and win more customers’ hearts and wallets.

Feel like one of these scenarios is yours?

Software delivery manager responsibilities: everything, everywhere, all at once

Thanks to their battle-tested knowledge of business, tech, project and people management, software delivery managers become universal soldiers capable of handling a medley of tasks.

Setting up several project teams  

Delivery managers take care of the aspects that contribute to consistent, high-quality software product delivery and crafting a sustainable solution:

  • Providing team members with the required skill set and level of expertise
  • Ensuring flexibility in scaling the development teams up and down
  • Defining responsibility areas for project managers and tech leads
  • Establishing smooth and transparent workflows for each project

Creating a dynamic delivery environment with effective communication between in-house and outsourced teams

A delivery manager has a hand in identifying the client’s expectations about the projects and setting up corresponding agreements. Software delivery manager skills enable them to choose the appropriate communication format to keep internal, external, and mixed development teams in the loop.  

Having high-level project ownership, the delivery manager continuously and proactively monitors key priority areas, such as client satisfaction and customer expectations

With such an approach, clients can rest assured that all the agreements will be fulfilled, leading to the expected result on time and on budget. Here’s how one of our clients describes cooperation with *instinctools:   

When the partner is good, things are just getting done. And that was the case with *instinctools.

— Dimitri Popolov, Research Data & Systems Manager, CANet

Undertaking strategic planning within the projects’ micro contexts and macro business context

As a tech expert with years of experience and a project management professional, the delivery manager is well-versed in the projects’ business and technical aspects. Moreover, since operational tasks are covered by the project managers and other roles within the dedicated teams, the DM can focus on analyzing the bigger picture. 

Through a deep exploration of the client’s business background and domain-specific data, the delivery manager ties the micro-level projects’ contexts and the client’s macro-level business backdrop together to draw up relevant mid- and long-term plans for the projects’ evolution

Case in point

Hiring a DM with solid domain expertise is one of the ways to fast-track your digital product engineering. Proceeding with the example of the e-health platform for CANet we mentioned earlier, the role of a service delivery manager, skilled in laying hold of the business side and guiding digital healthcare projects, was crucial. The DM quickly got to the heart of the project and brought it to the team, greatly facilitating the whole delivery process.

See the birth of a virtual platform for clinics, research centers, and patients that rewired the monitoring of patients with complex cardiovascular conditions in the entire country. Read the full case study 

Uncovering and preventing strategic risks 

To help you excel in a risk-prone world, delivery managers:

  • Scan economic, political, industrial, regulatory, and other external changes 
  • Spot internal risk-bearing issues at the feedback sessions with the client, at the teams’ retrospectives, and during the one-on-one meetings with employees 
  • Evaluate the likelihood and severity of each risk and build a risk matrix for each project
  • Create comprehensive risk management plans with clearly defined roles and responsibilities within the team
  • Plan risk scenarios for each case and connect them within the overall company’s resilience agenda
  • Factor in these risk scenarios to proactively reduce the likelihood or impact of high risks
  • Update the risk register regularly to reflect the latest information and status of each risk 
  • Implement risk reporting mechanisms to keep all stakeholders informed

At *instinctools, we adhere to the adaptive delivery approach which implies running regular reviews and feedback sessions with stakeholders to engage them in risk management and foster a culture of continuous improvement and risk awareness.

escalation process

Guiding change management initiatives

Delivery managers are the ones accountable for strategizing and driving change management programs. 

“Where does a client want to go with these projects?” “ How ready are they to go there?” “What do the client’s in-house and dedicated teams have to do to get there?” By answering these questions and regularly reviewing the answers, the DM identifies the most beneficial model for a change management initiative among linear, geometric, and big bang options.

Management Programs

Our clients’ cases reveal that in uncertain market conditions, even enterprise-grade companies are more likely to choose a linear or geometric model than a bold big-bang move.

Discover why our client decided to move slowly but surely on their way to legacy system modernization

Besides firing up change programs, the service delivery manager regularly evaluates their efficiency by scanning project success on three levels monthly or quarterly:

  • Initiative level that includes tracking the projects’ milestones, resource allocation, budget expenditure, and delivery deadlines
  • Business performance level with key outcomes such as costs, revenue, etc.
  • Value level, helping constantly focus on stakeholders’ ultimate goals 

Based on the results, the software delivery manager brings in subject matter experts when necessary and dynamically tailors the change program to the updated project status, stakeholders’ goals, market demand, etc. McKinsey research pinpoints that initiatives with clear milestones and regular monitoring are 7.3 times more likely to take root and flourish. 

Driving knowledge sharing with a client at the tech and product levels

Early-initiated knowledge sharing contributes to optimizing the whole delivery process. Here’s a real-life example.

When working on multiple related projects for an eyewear manufacturer and retailer, our delivery manager created a single, easily accessible knowledge base from the ground up. Encouraging knowledge sharing and accurate, detailed documentation allowed the team to run regular architecture assessments and implement new features without breaking a beat in the rolled-out applications

Following knowledge-sharing best practices, the delivery manager is responsible for:

  • Assisting in creating a single knowledge base 
  • Providing consistent and all-encompassing project documentation
  • Organizing technical and product round-table discussions to ensure regular knowledge transfer to the client’s team

Such an approach results in maintaining staff productivity and development speed regardless of changes in team composition both on the vendor’s and client’s sides. The clients get software solutions that are easy-to-grasp and support for newly onboarded software developers. You can even switch to another tech partner with no disruption in your development plans. 

Monitoring the team health

Last but far from least, the DM stands behind tracking project teams’ health, as healthy teams deliver three times the total shareholder returns (TSR) compared to unhealthy ones. 

By running monthly or quarterly checks of vital areas, such as motivation and communication within the teams, the delivery manager ensures the client has the right talents on board to execute their strategy successfully.

The bottom-up approach, when team members proactively suggest improvements is also possible. In such cases, the DM is the one who collects ideas, escalates issues, and supervises changes’ adoption. 

Still have questions about the DM’s key responsibilities?

Head-to-head comparison: service delivery manager vs. project manager

The delivery manager’s strengths and the value they add to the project become more vivid when compared to another role within the development team. That’s how *instinctools’ service delivery director outlines the differences between DM and PM. 

Criteria / RoleProject managerService delivery manager
BackgroundPMs don’t usually have a solid technical background. However, their role requires them to know the solution’s basic architectural aspects.DMs commonly grow out of senior tech experts, whose expertise extends beyond basic technical concepts and who can dive deep into the solution’s architecture.
Operating contextPMs operate at the project’s micro level; they are in charge of a specific project, its team dynamics, and timelines. DMs take the projects’ micro levels into account while overseeing the macro business level. They work on the strategic product vision to align it with the client’s business plans and ambitions. 
Planning focusPMs do short- and mid-term planning within a particular project.DMs create long-term strategies for several complex projects.
The number of teams under managementPMs are responsible for one dedicated team.DMs are experienced in managing several development teams within multiple projects.

Long-lasting benefits of having a DM on board

Hiring a service delivery manager may seem pricey until you have evidence of the value this role brings to the table:

  • Unwavering focus on providing expected business value. A delivery manager maintains a clear vision of your long-term projects, helping them stay on the right track and bring much-coveted results.  
  • Hitch-free delivery processes at the scale of multiple projects. As a high-level firefighter, a DM removes any bottlenecks, be it technology hurdles, staff issues, or communication difficulties.
  • Seamless collaboration between in-house and outsourced teams. The efficiency of cross-team communication and team health can impact the projects’ results positively or negatively. A delivery manager covers these areas, eliminating internal factors of the projects’ failure.
  • New growth opportunities in your domain. Backed up with DM’s industry-specific knowledge and strategic advising, you can easily unlock new evolution and ROI-generating scenarios.  

Want to reap these benefits?

Would you turn down the opportunity to multiply your project’s value when it’s just a click away?

Imagine having a committed ‘someone’ who takes care of the project vision’s consistency, monitors development team dynamics at several projects, ensures seamless communication between all the stakeholders, and handles unexpected challenges – all within delivery deadlines and estimated budget. Developing and rolling out a software solution with such an expert will be a breeze for sure. And that’s the reality waiting for you, with *instinctools’ delivery manager on board. 

Need help with juggling multiple projects?


What is the role of a software delivery manager?

A delivery manager is an expert whose skill set combines technical and managerial aspects as well as deep domain knowledge. They ensure a client gets a digital product that fully meets their tech and business expectations.
Delivery manager roles and responsibilities in software development life cycle can vary, but at *instinctools, we provide:

– Coordinators to manage project managers within several projects
– Visionary leaders to uncover new value-creation opportunities on your project journey
– Responsible for the entire delivery as the main driver of your software solution to success 

Is a delivery manager the same as a project manager? 

The service delivery manager can take over the PM’s responsibilities, but the capabilities of the former span much broader. Most importantly, a DM takes over multiple projects, not just one, as a PM does. Thanks to their extensive background, DMs have a deep understanding of the solution’s architecture and business analysis-related questions and can outline the project vision. They also focus on the long-term plans rather than on short- and mid-term planning.

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Chad West
Authored by Chad West,

*instinctools USA
Managing Director,
15+ years in IT consulting

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