Succeeding as a project manager (PM) is a tough job these days. When you consider all of the tasks that the typical project manager has to perform, it is no wonder that many project managers get frustrated or even fail! I did an analysis of the typical duties of the PMs that work for our clients, and here is a comprehensive but not necessarily complete list of the responsibilities that get thrown at PMs on a daily basis:
- Responding to RFPs and creating proposals
- Estimating project fees
- Business development and networking (including events, social media, etc.)
- Budgeting and planning projects
- Project financial management
- Project quality control
- Management of the project timeline
- Reviewing and approving employee time and expenses
- Reviewing and approving client billing
- Collecting Accounts Receivable (AR)
- Managing subcontractors
- Scheduling and using resources effectively
- Maintaining high utilization
- Solving client problems
- Nurturing client relationships
- Recruiting and interviewing new hires
- Mentoring and training staff
- Managing staff performance, and dealing with performance and behavior issues
- Managing contractual requirements and deliverables
- Preparing for and attending internal and external meetings
- Documentation of work product
If this list is not scary enough, just consider that most PMs don’t get training in most or any of these areas. Most people would be challenged with a handful of these assignments. But there are some steps you can take to make their job easier, and impact their ability to bring in successful and profitable projects:
Train PMs on financial management concepts – Most creative and technical professionals, whether they are architects, engineers, marketing professionals, or IT experts, do not receive business management training as part of their education. It is ineffective to throw reports at them with lots of concepts and terminology and expect them to understand them. Managers that receive training on financial management concepts have more profitable projects. Investing in training on cost accounting, billing rates and multipliers, financial reporting, and utilization management will provide a great return on investment for your management team.
Create a culture of accountability – The best-selling author Peter Drucker is quoted as saying that “people do what is measured.” This means that your firm needs a clear way to measure employee performance, and a good system for reviewing performance, and incentivizing and rewarding outstanding results. The first step is to develop a systematized process for managing the critical steps on a project, documenting all critical information along the way, and establishing a regular review process to ensure that the project is on track. You will see that as data is tracked and reviewed on a regular basis, more attention will be directed at those areas of the project that need it.
Give them the information they need – In order to effectively manage people and projects, PMs need reliable, timely and easy to understand reports and data. Providing this data to them in a format they can easily disseminate will improve overall project performance, and reduce the stress of dealing with all of the responsibilities outlined above. Exception reporting is one way to make their jobs easier. This is a method of reporting that highlights projects that are in trouble or need immediate attention. This can be done graphically, by color coding, or other means of highlighting projects that are not on track. Developing streamlined and real-time reporting for managers is critical to helping them deliver profitable projects.
Provide administrative help to manage projects – With all of the daily responsibilities and distractions that PMs must face each day, any way you can alleviate their administrative burden will pay off ten-fold. As PMs are one of your most expensive resources, it is not cost effective to have them loaded down with updating databases such as budgets and schedules. By providing administrative resources to PMs to handle some of these tasks will increase efficiency and allow them to focus their attention where it is best utilized. Leveraging your best resources is the key to having happy and productive managers.
Develop Streamlined and Effective Processes – Efficiencies and cost savings can be recognized by improving how people work together with technology. Documented processes help employees know how to do their jobs, who to go to for help or approvals, and provide consistency among groups and offices. For all of the important tasks that project managers execute on every day such as creating project estimates and proposals, responding to client inquiries, approving employee timesheets, and managing project budgets, specific processes should be developed and documented.
A clear focus on your firm’s people, processes, and systems will uncover areas for improvement and re-engineering. Employees are your firm’s greatest asset, and by removing bottlenecks to getting their jobs done, you can make a huge impact on their productivity, and project profit margins.
June R. Jewell, CPA is the author of the new book, Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering, and Environmental Firms. June has over 24 years of business management software consulting experience working with project-based professional services firms to support business profitability through web-based enterprise management technology. June has worked with hundreds of business owners to help them improve their processes, and give them the tools they need to be able to hold their employees and project managers accountable to increase profitability. For more information go to www.FindTheLostDollars.com and follow June on Twitter @junejewell