If you are looking to expand, but you aren’t sure how to make all the pieces come together, perhaps it’s time to consider adding a new team member to help guide you towards success

Often new teams in eCommerce work together in an ad hoc way until there is a need for more structure. Some teams need motivational leaders who can inspire them to complete a job. But who leads the leaders?

A functional manager is a person your project manager can lean on. While your project manager is busy taking care of strategy, planning and execution, your functional manager is overseeing and approving the direction of each stage of development.

Let’s take a closer look at what the job requires before we start asking some questions about how such a job role might fit into your organization.

What are the responsibilities of a Functional Manager?

Functional managers are responsible for overseeing their department to ensure that goals and objectives align with the company’s vision and values. Functional managers are often hired as heads of marketing, sales, accounts, customer service or product testing. Their job is to approve or deny projects in accordance with the overall company objectives. They do not work directly on projects, but as oversight and expert opinion.

The project manager reports to the functional manager.

The position requires a highly-skilled expert who is capable of managing resources, budgets, scheduling and fast decision making. They also need to have highly developed interpersonal skills, as much of the job is about guidance, mentoring and problem-solving.

Functional managers would be expected to:

  • Assign individuals to project teams according to the skills required to complete a project
  • Negotiate with the project manager regarding resources
  • Participate in project conception before handover to a project manager for development
  • Provide subject matter expertise
  • Approve final schedules for projects
  • Approve final project management plans
  • Recommend changes and any corrective actions during project execution
  • Manage activities within their functional areas
  • Assist with problems related to team member performance
  • Improve staff utilization

The role of the Functional Manager is challenging. It requires the balance between managing in a hands-on way without micromanaging teams. However, as your business expands, a functional manager can be a real asset to skilled teams who are in need of expert guidance to understand how to work with company goals in mind.

Do You Need a Functional Manager on Your Team?

A functional manager should be skilled, have excellent interpersonal skills and a thorough understanding of your company’s vision, goals and mission. Such talent can be costly, however, a functional manager should be guiding departments to understanding how best to use resources, such as employees and assets, in the most cost-effective manner.

A great functional manager can anchor your employees and act as a buffer for employees, project managers, and top leadership. They are the calm and collected overseer who facilitates growth not only for individuals but also for your company.

So how do you decide if you need a functional manager? Consider the following:

  • What do you want a functional manager to change/fix in your organization? What is it that you are missing?
  • Do you not already have the in-house expertise that would help you address the current issues?

This yes/no questions might help clarify if you really need a new team member or just an internal reshuffle.

Does your company have a vision?
Are all your departments aligned with this vision?
Are you sure your employees have all the skills needed for your growth?
Do you have a direction? A long-term and a near-term roadmap?
Are you capable of following your vision across all levels of the organization?
Do you have an established feedback loop with your departments?
Do you delegate tasks to the right people?
Do you understand what resources you have and how they are used?
Do you have the technical skills to guide employees to complete projects?
Are you confident in making hard decisions and weighing risky opportunities?
Are you comfortable discussing employee productivity, termination of employment, or other work-related personal issues with staff?

If your answers were mostly ‘no’, it might be time to consider how the right new team member could help reshape your business and support its expansion.

Inviting a functional manager to oversee a department can feel threatening to project managers. It needs to be made clear that the functional manager is an overseer who is working towards the overall growth of the company, while a project manager is a day-to-day manager who employees need to turn to for guidance. These lines must be made clear for all employees to understand hierarchy and job expectations.

The right functional manager can elevate your team from great to excellent. They should bring with them an enthusiasm for productivity, an eye for excellence and calm disposition that feels welcoming for all employees. Your functional manager should build your teams up and help them to develop their skills to their highest level without people feeling intimidated.

With a functional manager heading your department of most need, you should see cohesion in teams that might have been missing, alignment of work all honouring your company vision and improved use of resources, which will facilitate your growth ambitions.