If you recall being in high school and assigned to a class “group” project that accounted for 50 percent of your final grade, you probably remember that one student in your group who was deemed “group leader” – and in short, likely “did all the work” (or at least complained that they did). If you were that group leader, you can appreciate just how difficult it is to assemble a team, through conflicting schedules and differentiating personalities, and get them on the same page, at the same time, to contribute to and finish a project by deadline.
In the IT and business world, these “group leaders” are called project managers. While the same concept of project applies in both school and enterprise, a business project is measured not by letter grade, but by level of achievement (against its scope) and can sometimes make or break a company’s legitimacy. To ensure a project runs smoothly from start to finish, a project manager multitasks as the eyes, ears, voice and backbone of the operation – making sure tasks are completed, timelines are monitored and managed, milestones are achieved and deadlines are met.
One could argue that a project manager is basically a “professional multi-tasker”. In addition to managing the entire project, a project manager also “manages” the following areas during a project’s lifecycle:
From the moment a project kicks off, the project manager retains essential lines of communication with all involved parties. This includes sending emails and making phone calls, consistent follow-ups on statuses and scheduling, coordinating logistics and procurement, and most importantly, acting as the collective mouthpiece amongst the internal project team, the client, third parties and all invested stakeholders. According to ProjectManagement.com, about 75-90 percent of a project manager’s time is spent maintaining and distributing communication, so that everyone involved in a project is always on the same page. If a third-party vendor needs to reschedule an onsite equipment install, the project manager is responsible for informing the client on scheduling changes and coordinating the rescheduling for the vendor. Simultaneously, the project manager keeps both parties updated on status, reports on issues and delays, and revises project timelines as needed to assume date obstacles.
“Having a Project Manager increases the likelihood a project will be successful and on budget… enabling your business to grow.” – 20/20 Project Management
The project manager oversees project scheduling by maintaining a bird’s eye view over the project timeline; mapping out phases, milestones and tasks to meet specific project deadlines and monitor any critical obstacles or exceptions (scheduling and delays) that may occur throughout the project lifespan.
The project manager monitors monetary expenses accrued during a project, including budgeted/billed work hours by engineering and third-party vendors, equipment procurement and logistics (shipping/receiving costs and travel), and manpower (internal and external) resources allocated to the work.
No matter how well planned out a project is, there is always room for error and risk. A project manager will identify these potential issues and shape the project plan to mitigate these risks. The goal of risk management is to lower negative impact and maximize productivity.
To ensure a project stays on track and reaches its target goal, a project manager will act as both the engineer of a product and its driving force. For example, an IT Managed Services Provider is hired by a law firm to move their IT environment to the cloud. The assigned project manager will work with the project team to design a concise project plan and continue to goal keep the process throughout implementation. Once deployment begins, the project manager continues to steer the wheel to keep the project plan moving along; making adjustments where needed, creating change orders (for additional procurement and service add-ons), maneuvering project tasks around the workplan to accommodate existing circumstances. A project plan and resources without a project manager is like having all the pieces of a puzzle without the puzzle board to hold it all together. In short, project managers are the glue that holds different facets of a project together and therefore crucial for its successful completion.