What does a Project Manager do?
Before you can decide if you need a project manager, you’ll want to know”what does a project manager do?”. Unfortunately, there’s not a short and fast answer to that question: project managers wear many hats depending on the company they are working with. You may work with project managers who:
- Budget for a project from start to finish and simply keep their finger on the pulse of a given project. -righting it when things go wrong. They are probably managing more than one project at the same time.
- You may find a project manager that does all of the above and also consults on software and strategy as well. Sometimes they are referred to as Management Consultants and is more responsible for setting up systems for the teams they are managing, and consulting on the best ways to implement those systems.
- Some project managers will perform aspects of the projects themselves and be more “hands on” with a project – not delegating all the legwork to the team.
- Lastly, you’ll have a project manager that does all of the above – manges a lean team, a tight budget, limited resources and has to do a lot of legwork themselves. Startups usually use the service of a do-it-all project manager consultant.
In summary, a Project Manager plans and executes a given project – start to finish.
What types of problems do Project Managers resolve?
Several different problems manifest when starting a project. A general rule is, the bigger the project the greater the problems. A manager is responsible for running the day to day operations of a business. The same is true for a business owner. Starting a new project takes away from the primary directive of business manager / owners, and neither the established business nor new project are run efficiently. By hiring a project manager, the issues of budget – most importantly setting a good budget from the start and avoiding overages – is one of the primary concerns of the Project Manager. Overages, that a business can not adsorb, are a primary reason that some projects never come to fruition or are delayed into new quarters when more funds become available for the project.
A good project manager will be able to break the entire project down into stages and assess the resources needed from the team, any software needed to complete the project, and how to budget expenditures for the given project, delivering the project on time. This is especially important for a smaller business when budgets are very tight and a delayed project can spell financial catastrophe. This stage is called the Planning Stage.
After the project is set-up (planning stage), the project manager will be responsible for the team and keeping hold of budgetary requirements in the Implementation Stage. If a team member is “slacking off” or encountered an issue, the project manager is responsible for heading those issues off at the pass and resolving them. The project manager will, in the course of their work, assess which team member is best suited to a particular aspect of the project to try and avoid roadblocks. For example, you wouldn’t want to task a person with great design skills, and minimal coding experience, to write script for a project. Determining the individual team member’s zone of genius helps the project run smoothly. The project manager will stay in communication with the team to determine that the project is progressing according to schedule and that every team member is in the appropriate role.
Lastly, the project is complete and the Project manager ensures delivery of the final project to the customer or stakeholder. This is a time when the project manager will look over the entirety of the project and assess what worked well and did not work well. THis summarization helps the Project Manager avoid these issues in the future and can identify which members of the team were underperforming or weren’t tasked with the appropriate aspect of the project. While the Completion stage is the smallest stage in the project management landscape, it helps ensure that future projects run more smoothly than previous ones.
In summary: Dedicating a lot of time to the Planning Stage of a project will help the Implementation Stage run more smoothly.
Do I need a project manager?
This is a question we can not answer for you, by understanding what role the project manager plays, however, you can determine if you have the bandwidth, experience, and skill to Plan, Implement, and Close out a project. As we mentioned before, the owner /manager of a business has several constraints in the day-to-day operation of a business which would take away from the proper execution of a project – especially a large one.
Imagine if you were to overhaul your business website. Would you know who to hire, how long the project should take, what is needed to initiate the project and what the costs would be? Probably not. You would have to learn all of those things before starting on the project to begin with. If there is a delay in the project, would you be able to ascertain why the delay is occurring and how to fix it? Lastly, would you be able to do all these things and run your business as well as you are now?
While a project manager seems, at the outset, to be an additional project expense, they actually end up saving clients money over the course of a project by avoiding delays and maintaining tight reigns on the budget. In fact, according to The Project Management Institute in regards to digital project management
” 9.9 cents of every dollar is wasted due to poor project performance. At the same time, only 58 percent of companies understand the importance of project management. Those who don’t see much value in PM activity report project failures nearly 50 percent more frequently.”
If you are working on a $100,000 project, you can expect to lose almost $10,000 on poor project performance.
Remember when we mentioned the larger the project the bigger the problem? Add a few zeros to those numbers above or think about the monetary losses and loss of reputation if this is a project for a client that you can’t deliver on. The financial risk is immesureable.
Project management is an essential element to any digital project coming to completion successfully. If you find yourself strapped and just can’t justify the costs of a project manager, there are some steps you can take to minimize this expense while still managing your project successfully.
Project Management Tools – Use tools like Monday, where there are many Project management templates you can utilize, to help you plan out your project and to keep your team members on track. This is the tool we utilize with our projects because it is very user friendly and powerful. There are other project management tools like Asana, Trello or Zoho to utilize if Monday is not a good fit. Pick a tool and set it up for the specific needs of your project. You can also have a Project Manager JUST set up the project on project management software. Since the Planning Stage is the most important, as we have established, this might be the BEST place to bring in a Project Management Consultant to help get it all set up properly.
Get a Project Management task template. There are several free options to help you keep all the tasks under control . Analysis Tab for Excel is a great option. Or a spreadsheet in Google Drive can work as well. However, you can use a Project management tool like we mentioned above, to track tasks in real time for your entire team.
Schedule milestone meetings. Make sure your team reports frequently on their progress and communicates any roadblocks they are experiencing. It seems redundant but you can use a Project Management Software, like Monday, to perform this check-in as well. If your team is remote it is especially useful for keeping everyone on task. Zoom Meetings, Google Hangouts or Skype are great ways to use a free tool to have stand-up type meetings with your team as often as you deem necessary to be sure everything is on track.
Keeping a project on time and within budget is the primary role of the Project Manager. Saving time, money and your business reputation (in some instances) will be an additional benefit of contracting with a project manager or bringing one inhouse.