Should Project Managers use A.I. to help with software troubleshooting and development?

November 14, 2023

Ross Ross Gerring

A Project Manager excited to be codingThe integration of non-programmers, such as project managers, into the realm of programming, particularly in situations like attempting to fix bugs, presents a complex scenario with various pros and cons. This article delves into these aspects, considering the evolving role of AI in programming and the dynamics of software development teams.

Pros of Non-Programmers Programming:

  1. Immediate Problem Solving: In situations where a coding issue is urgent and developers are unavailable, a project manager with some programming skills can provide an immediate solution. This quick fix can be crucial in maintaining project timelines and client satisfaction.
  2. Reduced Workload for Developers: By handling minor programming tasks, project managers can lighten the developers’ workload, allowing them to focus on more complex and critical aspects of the project.
  3. Enhanced Understanding of the Development Process: When project managers engage in programming, they gain a firsthand understanding of the challenges and intricacies of software development. This can lead to more realistic timelines, better resource allocation, and improved empathy towards the development team.
  4. Utilization of AI Assistance: With the advent of AI tools that aid in programming, non-programmers like project managers can produce reasonably good code. AI can guide them through syntax, logic, and even complex coding structures, potentially elevating the quality of their contributions.

Cons of Non-Programmers Programming:

  1. Quality and Efficiency Concerns: Project managers may lack the depth of knowledge and experience that professional developers have, leading to code that is less efficient or not up to professional standards. This can result in the need for rework, negating the initial time savings.
  2. Disruption of Workflows and Quality Controls: Non-programmers might not be fully versed in standard development practices such as version control, code reviews, and testing protocols. Their involvement can disrupt established workflows and compromise code quality and project integrity.
  3. Misallocation of Project Manager’s Time: Programming, even with AI assistance, can be time-consuming. For project managers, this might lead to a neglect of their primary responsibilities such as project oversight, team management, and client communication.
  4. Potential Underutilization of Developer Skills: Relying on non-programmers for coding tasks can lead to underutilization of the developers’ specialized skills, possibly affecting their job satisfaction and career development.
  5. Training and Up-skilling Requirements: Project managers would require additional training to be effective at programming, even with AI tools. This training represents an investment of time and resources that may or may not yield a satisfactory return.
  6. Ensuring Developers Utilize AI Effectively: While project managers might encourage or mandate the use of AI tools by developers, ensuring that these tools are used effectively and appropriately can be challenging. It requires a balance between technological advancement and maintaining core programming skills.

Other Considerations:

  • Communication and Collaboration: When project managers dabble in programming, it might affect the dynamics of the team. It is essential to maintain clear communication and respect professional boundaries to ensure a collaborative environment.
  • Risk Management: There should be a clear understanding of the risks involved when non-programmers contribute to the codebase. These risks should be weighed against the potential benefits.
  • Adapting to Rapid Technological Changes: The programming landscape is constantly evolving, especially with the integration of AI. Both developers and project managers need to stay abreast of these changes to make informed decisions about when and how to involve non-programmers in coding tasks.
  • Cultural Impact: The involvement of project managers in programming can have cultural implications within the team. It might foster a culture of learning and cross-disciplinary skills, or it could lead to tensions and role confusion.

In conclusion, the idea of non-programmers like project managers engaging in programming, especially with the aid of AI, is a nuanced one. It offers potential benefits such as immediate problem-solving and a better understanding of the development process. However, it also carries significant risks related to quality control, workflow disruption, and potential misallocation of resources. Balancing these factors requires careful consideration of the specific context, the skill level of the project manager, and the nature of the task at hand. Ultimately, the decision to involve non-programmers in programming tasks should be made with a clear understanding of the potential implications for both the project and the team.