Ultimately, the Project Manager (that’s me! 👋) is accountable for the success or failure of your project.

My role can often be misunderstood as being admin-based, and can often be questioned by clients when they see the line item on an invoice. “What’s this?”, they quiz, with one eyebrow raised sky high.

So this post is here to outline you the benefits of having a super-PM (like me!) working to help get your project from start to ➡ finish.

It’s my duty to manage stakeholders on all sides, making sure that everybody is on the same page and heading towards the same end goal (and at the right tempo). That involves cracking the whip on our end and, occasionally, holding you accountable too.

You do want your project delivered on time and without incurring extra costs, right? I thought so.

So what the heck do I do?

There are many behind the scene tasks that I have to undertake to keep a project on track and within budget.

Yes, admin does come into it (as it does with any role), but the main bulk of my work is proactively looking after a project to get the best results (for both client and agency).

Before I kick-off (launch) your project, there are steps I take to ensure it will be smooth and that everyone is up to speed.

Firstly, I will set you up on each of the systems we use internally:

  • Basecamp3 – for all the project details (working schedule, contracts, briefs etc)
  • Harvest – measures the project budget and resource used
  • Slack – in-house channels allow us to communicate on project-specific points quickly

The next step I take is to book in an internal team meeting to go through all the details of the project to get a full understanding of what the outcome is. This is where we assemble the team, responsibilities, and key actions and dates.

During the lifetime of the project, I will often be your main contact. (Our ongoing Growth Campaign clients are assigned a dedicated Account Manager free of charge, to help them to reach their objectives. However, you better believe I’ll still be checkin’ those budgets 🙅)

With a development project, on the other hand, I am typically:

  • in regular communication with the client
  • in meetings
  • facilitating calls, and
  • updating all parties on progress

To kick a development project off, there are background steps that need to be taken. Setting the project up on the systems above is just one step, but it’s a crucial one so that nothing gets lost.

I then tailor a gantt chart to show the timeline of the project, whilst adding this information into Basecamp so that all team members are aware of what is required of them. I hold regular catch ups (internally and externally), so I very rarely get down time. Communication is a key factor in any successful project.

It’s this level of due diligence and care in seeing your project through to the end that is what I’m here to do. I save money by seeing projects over the line efficiently. I save time by managing resources.

Now that you know what I do, here are 5 of the most common challenges that any project manager will face. By tackling these together, we’ll get along just fine.

1. Poorly defined goals

Challenges

  • The client (and consequently the agency) doesn’t really know what the end goal looks like.
  • The goal cannot be quantified and suffers from weak statements such as, “it must be cool”. What does ‘cool’ look like, specifically?

Solution

  • Hold a kick-off meeting to define clear goals with the client in a face-to-face meeting, helping to develop ideas and get to a point of clarity.

2. Unrealistic Deadlines

Challenge

  • The client wants their project completed quickly, but hasn’t fully considered their own involvement in the project or likely obstacles along the way.

Solution

  • Set out clear timelines from the start of the project. I work with the client to get an idea of when they are available to look over documents or designs. I then add this to a Gantt chart to clearly define when a certain part of the project is due to start and when you will need to sign-off. If you set these dates early, both parties will be aware of what is required from them and by when.

3. Scope creep

Challenge

  • The product starts off as an apple, and turns into an apple pie over the lifecycle of the project. The agreement was an apple, and now you want pastry on top? That’s fine, but it’s out of scope.

Solutions

  • Unfortunately, there is no 100% anti-scope-creep solution. As projects develop, we naturally want to tweak things. The first place to start is with a detailed scoping document that outlines exactly what has been discussed and what has been agreed.
  • Being very open and transparent from the start. If you didn’t specify that you wanted bells and whistles, then adding bells and whistles will be subject to an additional charge.
  • Lastly, and the most effective way, is to take your time to consider exactly what it is you want from your project. If you’re not quite sure (this is normal), then allow yourself a contingency budget to cover any ad-hoc changes.

4. Weak communication

Challenges

  • Communication is slow and/or ‘bitty’.
  • Multiple methods of communication are used and therefore record-keeping is poor.
  • Skirting around the subject.

Solutions

  • Regular check-ins with both team and client helps to keep lines of communication open, and any questions answered in a systematic and predictable way.
  • Keeping consistency in how we communicate will reduce lost information. Making a phone call whilst in the car tackling the magic roundabout in Hemel Hempstead is not the best place to discuss outstanding tasks.
  • Be firm but clear with your expectations and we’ll work much better together. Similarly, if I need to tell you what’s what, I will do. You’ll thank me in the end.

5. Risk management

Challenge

  • Assuming that nothing will go wrong. (It will.)

Solutions

  • Planning for certain instances in the kick-off meetings for things like; planned holidays, decision makers, etc. With this information, you can produce control measures that can help you to deal with the risks accordingly.
  • Creating a Plan B risk document. If ‘X’ happens, then we’ll do ‘Y’.
  • I also hold retrospective project debriefs called GBU (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). These allow myself and the team to analyse what worked and what didn’t. As part of this process, I’ll also ask for your feedback. I then make any necessary changes to our own process to help the way we work in future.

 

So that’s it – what I do and 5 challenges that I face (and how you can help me to help yourself). I hope this has been enlightening and educational, and please do get in touch if you have any questions at all. I’d be glad to answer your questions.

If you have an upcoming project and want the outcome to be more predictable and reliable, then chat to us today.

By skimping on the costs of proper project management, you’re risking your hard earned money in the hope that people, timelines, systems, communications, and more will all magically align.

Honestly, good luck with that.