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Project Management

What does it mean to be a Project Manager? What are the key attributes and responsibilities? To answer these questions, it is first required to assume the responsibility of being the ultimate lead for the Project. Being the lead means that you fully understand the Project, why it is worthwhile, and what it hopes to achieve. Being a leader does not mean that you know everyone’s work details, but you had a better understanding of the role that each component plays. Think of the Project Manager as the Producer of a film. The Producer is in charge of hiring all the right people, the Director, the actors, the scriptwriters, the publicists, when and where the film is going to show, and every aspect of the entire Project. Also, the Producer must find the money to fund the movie; these are the Executive Producers and make sure they are happy along with the rest of the cast and crew. So, it is with a Project Manager, that not only do you have to have a satisfied end-user, but you must also have to keep the Customer happy with the cost and schedule and make sure the team works and plays well together.

Before taking on the role of a Project Manager, do some homework on the various technologies and skill sets you will require for the lifecycle of the Project. First, one must deal with the Customer who will be funding the Project. The Customer must believe that the Project is worth their money and resources. The Customer can be internal or external, so the Project Manager’s job will be first to convince them they care and trust that the Project will be a success. An example of an internal Project might be a change in the business infrastructure to allow for a more secure, robust, and flexible system that will enhance operations and keep the employees interested in their jobs. An external Project will be a product delivered to end-users that must be satisfied and receives funds from outside the company. Either way, the Customer, those with the money, need to be convinced the Project is worthwhile and produce the desired results within the amount of money they are willing to spend. Once this is established, the real challenge begins.

The Customer will have a vision and budget and schedule of what they think they would like to see happen, often given by very high-level requirements, maybe just a couple of sketches and a thought of what something ought to cost and how long it should take. Typically, the Project Manager will not have near enough detail to do anything. At this point, involve stakeholders. You have the first already, the Customer. Now you will need the End Users, your resources, people and materials, and a lifecycle plan that will succeed. Keep in mind that all stakeholders must also believe in the Project’s success. The constant asking, listening, and two-way feedback is a job within itself. In addition, you will be responsible for the management of the budget and schedule.

Stakeholder is a broad field, and they all must be kept engaged and confident in success. There will be many pitfalls as well as some lucky breaks. The Project Manager gets to juggle all of this daily. It is essential to make friends with your key personnel; this goes from the Customer to your internal leads, and your sub-contractor leads as well as the end-user. A quick weekly meeting on progress is a good idea, just to keep ideas and schedules flowing. Also, get to know, especially your Customer and internal people well; take some time to touch base individually with these people to both keep them focused and to share any thoughts they may not want to bring up in the group. Be prepared to bring any issues to the group meeting as if they had come from you if the individual asks. The critical thing to keep in mind is that you are the leader. A good leader is especially important in remote managing. For that, it may be wise to have smaller meetings with individual teams once a week to make sure that everyone is still striving for the same outcome and that there are no upcoming risks that will become issues. And one last thing to keep in mind; don’t keep secrets from your team, boss or customer. Things can sometimes go awry and hiding them will only set up something worse, so if you foresee budget, performance, or schedule issues on the horizon, get the team informed so that an answer can be found or otherwise mitigated. Things happen, and plans may change, but surprises are bad.

In Conclusion, being a Program Manager means that you are leading an entire production; your job is to make sure they are a team, regardless of who signs their checks. You are responsible for knowing the problem and having a reasonably good understanding of how it will all come together. I suggest keeping a personal log to learn from each project, it will also make producing lessons learned easy, but the log being yours, take time to review it each week and learn from it. If you are told that the only duties a Project Manager has are to keep spreadsheets of budget and schedule you end up ignoring your team and yourself. Not only will this result in mediocre results and raises, but it takes the fun out of the job. A Project Manager’s goal should be to learn and care more, and it also makes it fun.

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