In order to deliver our RST products and services, many of our engagements consist of delivering a project to a client. A project may be defined as a temporary, unique set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal, with a defined scope and resources. In order to ensure this set of operations is delivered successfully, all projects must be managed. There are many factors to consider when defining the management structure for an RST project such as duration, risks and resources. For example, projects with a high level of complexity and risk may require a full time Project Manager (PM), while smaller, simpler engagements may be delivered successfully with a part-time PM or a designated Team Lead or Acting Project Manager role assigned to the project. In these types of special assignments, the resource typically occupies a dual role in the project, such as Business Analyst or Developer, but also executes project management responsibilities. This type of experience can be very valuable for anyone interested in learning and experiencing the administrative aspects of project execution. To ensure a productive learning and growth experience while successfully delivering the project, it is highly recommended that an experienced PM serves as active mentor or provides guidance to the less experienced resource.
So what do Project Managers do? There is a long list of what roles a PM is responsible for over the life cycle of a project. They plan, budget, monitor and report on the project with project management tools, sometimes pitching the idea of the project or being assigned to it once it’s already been approved. The project manager is the bridge between upper management and the teams tasked with the actual execution of the project. They make sure the scope of the project is sound, reporting regularly on the progress of the project and that it is staying on the approved schedule. Here’s a universal list of responsibilities that may apply to anyone executing a project management role.
Image Source: Project Manager
· Planning Project Resources: A project can begin and certainly is designed to fail if there first wasn’t a plan devised to see it through, on time and within budget. The project manager’s first role is making a feasible plan that achieves the goals and objectives of the project and aligns with the organization’s overall business strategy. This is not only a blueprint with which to run the project, but a critical part of the pitch to get approval for the project. Part of the plan is defining the project’s scope and determining what resources are available, estimating time and financial commitment, as well as how to monitor and report on the project’s progress.
· Assembling and Leading Project Team: Project managers need resources to complete the project tasks, which includes skilled and experienced workers. They need to either take a leadership role with an existing team or create one. Once a team is created, you assign them tasks and deadlines, give them the tools to collaborate and don’t get in their way by micromanaging every activity. Meet regularly, of course, and get status updates to chart their progress, while reallocated resources as needed to avoid blocking team members or overburdening them.
· Time Management: Time is always ticking towards the project deadline. While communications is key to addresses changes and make sure everyone is doing what they need to do when they need to do it, the project manager must also define, schedule and accurately estimate the task duration to develop and maintain a realistic schedule.
· Budget: Nothing is going to get done without money. Figuring out what the proper funding for the project is, having that get accepted and then keeping the project within or under that figure is often what makes or breaks a project. You can get your stakeholder their deliverable on time, but if that cost more than the budget you created, then the project is a failure. Making an accurate estimate is only the first part. Next, you must monitor the actual spend as compared to the planned budget. If those figures are off, you must adjust accordingly.
· Quality and Satisfaction: These are two major hurdles to clear. You want to deliver to your stakeholders what they expected or better and make sure that they’re satisfied with the results. But that doesn’t mean ignoring them to focus solely on the project. Rather, you need to be in constant communications with them, reporting on progress and being open to their feedback to keep them happy and coming back to you with future projects.
· Manage Issues and Risk: Problems will inevitably arise in a project. That’s called an issue. You need to be ready for them and work towards resolving them quickly, so as they don’t take your project off-track. Then there are risks, which are potential problems, ones that have yet to occur or might not ever. Regardless, you must figure out beforehand what the risks are and set in place a plan of action if they in fact occur.
· Monitoring Progress: To make sure a project is progressing as planned, you must constantly measure it and compare those metrics against the plan you created. Therefore, you must have a way to collect project data, such as status reports from your team, to see if the actual progress of the project is meeting what you had initially planned. Things are going to change along the way, and you’re going to have to adjust or reallocate resources to accommodate these changes. If you’re not monitoring this, you’re managing in the dark.
· Reporting and Documentation: Reporting is one of ways you communicate with your team and stakeholders. While teams need more detailed information and stakeholders are looking for broader data to check the project’s progress, both are essential tasks for the project manager. This documentation, along with all paperwork, must be collected, signed off on and archived by the end of a project, which provides a history that you can revisit when planning for a similar project in the future.