Are the deadlines for your projects often not met? Are you unsure of the status of your projects at any given time? Is the original budget for your projects typically exceeded? Are the results of your projects less than initially expected?
If you answered yes to most of these questions, chances are your projects need more effective management. Project management helps prevent these problems by organizing and managing resources to ensure that deliverables are completed on time, within budget, and that they are of high quality. The larger the project scope, the more important this becomes.
Certainly in the case of a friend of mine this is true. His manufacturing company implemented an upgrade to their main computer application and on the Monday when it went live, the system went down and stayed down for a week while problems were identified and repaired. They couldn’t order parts, make products or know when deliveries were due. Most businesses today cannot easily survive after a week without their main computer system. This situation really needed an experienced project manager.
What does a Project Manager actually do? The primary function of the project manager is to coordinate all project-related activities and to monitor progress of the agreed-upon work, timelines, and costs. Before initiating the effort, the project manager works closely with the client to prepare a project plan outlining critical paths and milestones and determining the budget. Throughout the project, the project manager reports the status of each task, changes in scope, and potential risk of not meeting targeted timelines and budgets. This person becomes the primary point of communication between the client and the project team members, facilitating the flow of information between the two parties. The project manager must proactively assess and evaluate resource allocation, execution of project tasks, and timelines for deliverables. He or she also drives implementation of contingency plans, problem resolution, and is empowered to motivate and influence the project team to achieve the project’s overall goals. The term “project manager” often becomes synonymous with project champion, project coordinator, project advocate, or project leader.
Throughout the delivery, the project manager monitors the use of resources against project timelines, budgets, and requirements, and recommends necessary adjustments to resources and timelines. Key to the effectiveness of project management is proactively identifying potential impediments to completing the project in a timely and cost-effective manner.
The next step involves prioritizing the risks in order of probability and magnitude of impact on costs, quality, and timelines, and then formulating a risk management plan. The plan should list strategies to mitigate risks, persons responsible, and timetables for implementation, resources, assumptions made, and ways to measure effectiveness.
Every project has its share of problems and issues. It is wise to devise a plan detailing when and how to escalate an issue to the next level supervisor, someone from upper management, quality assurance, or the client. Although there are no hard-and-fast rules, the following are some of the warning signs that someone of greater authority should be consulted:
• Timelines are going to be compromised
• Client has started to express concern or dissatisfaction
• Several attempts or approaches at resolving the problem have failed
• Expertise within the team is limited or there is turnover mid-project
The project manager’s role is to inform the client of the problem in a timely manner and facilitate the resolution of the issue.
Some project managers use software such as “Microsoft Project” or other similar product to manage projects. Project management skills take a great deal of time to learn and hone, usually requiring formal training and years of experience. With these disciplines in place, projects have a much greater probability of success.
What are your experiences with projects? Do you agree with the need for a project manager? Have you worked on projects in the past that have been successful without a PM? Your opinions and stories are welcome.