Orchestra conductor, head surgeon, sports coach, army general—everybody has their own favorite analogy for a project manager.
All of these analogies make it clear that the project manager can’t be just anybody. They have to be the person who can get things done.
They need to be exceptional. They need to have skills not everybody has.
We recently asked WORKetc users what they believe are the most essential skills a project manager absolutely must have.
Here are their answers, as well as how you can use WORKetc to enhance those skills even further.
The single most important skill of a project manager is to manage other’s expectations. There has to be a dialogue, attention to detail, a timetable, and a set of specific objectives. Deviating from the plan is fine, as long as any deviation comes with details about how it impacts the project timetable and cost. – Keith Klein, OnYourMark
Even the simplest project can balloon into a complicated mess if you’re not careful.
It’s way too easy for a client’s seemingly simple additional request to adversely affect each and every aspect of a project—like a project flu epidemic.
Before you know it, you have a project with an overly-bloated scope taking you much longer to finish and using up way more of your resources than you expected.
And when that happens, you don’t really have a project anymore. All you’ve got in your hands is a massive time and money vortex.
As project manager, it’s important that you explicitly understand a project’s requirements from day one. You also need to be able to make sure that everyone on your team is on the same page even before a project starts.
WORKetc’s “attach anything to anything” approach to CRM and project management lets you do this easily. Simply attach all important information to the main project, everything from design briefs to external and internal email correspondence, and you and your team can find any information you may need with a few clicks.
You can also manage your client’s expectations through the customer portal. By sharing tasks and correspondence with the client, you can make sure that, same as everybody else on your team, your client is always on the same page as well.
And if the client asks to broaden the project’s scope, you can use the budget tab in WORKetc’s projects module as well as timesheet reports to quickly calculate whether or not you have the time, manpower, and budget necessary to proceed.
Let’s say you’re working on a web design project with a budget of $1,000. You’ve already sent in the five landing pages that are part of the package for your client to review, but then the client requests that you add two additional landing pages.
You check the project’s Gantt chart and budget tab in WORKetc, and see that thanks to your team working far faster than usual, you’re well within both budget and schedule. You won’t lose any time or money if you went ahead and worked on those two new landing pages.
You can then decide to go ahead without charging the client extra since you’re still well within the original budget. That added value can turn a one-off customer into a powerful advocate for your brand, and may even end up bringing more money to your company in the future.
A good project manager has to be able to see where the project is headed and the steps it takes to get there. If they are unable to see the destination and can’t figure out how to get there then they will be totally useless as a project manager. – Randy Bryan, tekRESCUE
Visualizing a project from start to finish is easy with WORKetc’s Gantt charts.
The Gantt chart is one big visual timeline for a project, giving insight into the project’s flow as well as important milestones and deadlines.
It gives your team a clear graphical view of the project schedule, letting everybody quickly see exactly when each deliverable is due.
And if there’s a change in the project’s scope, deliverables, or even the people assigned to certain tasks? You can quickly make those changes on the Gantt chart itself and automatically notify your team about the update.
Another way that WORKetc helps you map out your projects faster is through the use of project templates. These make it easy to quickly roll out projects that you take on regularly.
If you have a online marketing firm that does both SEO and PPC projects, for example, you can create separate templates for each of your services..
When a client asks you for help with SEO, you can use a template where every task required for an SEO project has already been created. All you then need to do is assign tasks to people, set deadlines, and perhaps tweak a few tasks according to your client’s needs.
Adapting to Change
Inevitably, things will either go wrong in a project or the parameters will change. A project manager needs to be able to adapt to the change in circumstances or conditions that affect the completion of the project. – Ross Hendy, Promethean Editions
Let’s say you’ve got an SEO project in the works. Each task has already been assigned to members of one of your three SEO teams.
Everything’s going great until James, the member assigned to the competitor research task, suddenly falls ill and has to take two days off.
You can wait for James to feel better and get back to work, but that’ll throw the whole schedule out of whack. Instead, you decide to see if there’s anyone else who can take over that task while James is out of commission.
By checking the “People” tab on WORKetc’s task list (Work > ToDos or, depending on your settings, Work > Tasks) and filtering for all active tasks, assigned to your SEO teams, during the two-day period when James won’t be around, you can quickly see which of your remaining SEO team members don’t have a lot of tasks that day and can therefore sub in for James.
Another approach is to use WORKetc’s calendars. A project manager should be able to access his team members’ work calendars, so you can use those to see every single work activity your people have scheduled.
The task list will only show you tasks, but by showing all activities in their calendars, you can see everything from tasks to events such as client meetings.
Either way, you can then just assign that team member to the competitor research task (in addition to James). And when James comes back, he’ll be able to see any new updates, discussions, file uploads, or other attachments on the competitor research task so he gets right up to speed.
A project manager has to be a clear and patient communicator. The trick is to speak with the right voice to your contact. Whether they are the direct client or staff member, understanding how they communicate best and their technical level is the key. – David Grace, Abacus Web Services
WORKetc won’t magically turn you into a better communicator, but its discussions feature does make communicating with your team easier and less messy.
When it comes to team communications, an email-only approach is certainly possible, but it’s definitely not always viable.
Finding important information in a massive email chain is a slog. Yes, you’ll find what you’re looking for eventually, but you’ll have spent way too much time doing it—time that would have been better used working on other tasks.
By using WORKetc discussions and attaching them to the proper project, sub-project, or task, you can make sure that any information anyone on your team may need it always within easy reach.
Let’s say you’re working on a new logo for a client’s website. Your client asks why you used an SVG logo instead of a simple JPG.
Now, you remember that this question also came up during the design process and that you created a discussion for it in your logo project’s “Design” task.
You also remember that one of your designers had a great explanation. They even included some page load speed tests that showed why SVG was the better choice.
You can then just go to your logo design project’s “Design” task, click on the “Discussions” tab, and find the exact explanation that you need to tell your client.
You don’t need to search through your email inbox for that particular discussion. You don’t even need to disturb that team member from doing their task just so they could explain the whole thing again.
Plus, by using the discussions module to request replies from specific team members, you don’t run the risk of an important email getting lost and forgotten in that team member’s inbox.
By using WORKetc’s customer portal, you can also make sure your client has easy access to all communication you’ve had with them, increasing transparency for your project.
If a client, for example, forgets about a change that they asked you to make and is now asking why those changes were made in the first place, you can easily point them towards the email they sent where they ask you to make that change, all via the customer portal.
Time management and the ability to delegate effectively are absolutely essential. If the project manager is unorganized and unable to meet deadlines then how can they expect the people working on the project to pull up their slack? – Jaymes Baker, Bond-Pro
Assigning and delegating tasks is easy to do in WORKetc since you can create and assign tasks from basically anywhere in WORKetc.
If you’re gearing up for a project, you can do it from within the main project details, the task list, or the Gantt chart. You can also do it from an employee’s contact page—or almost any other WORKetc page, for that matter.
Let’s say for example that you need someone to call your client about a meeting that they missed yesterday. Now, the meeting has already been saved in WORKetc as an event, so you can just open that event, use the “Create New” dropdown menu to create a new task, and assign that task to one of your team members so they can follow up with the client.
By using the Gmail gadget and the Outlook add-in, you can even create and assign tasks without leaving your email inbox. And once you assign a task, WORKetc can automatically send a notification to the person or people you assigned it to so they can start working on it ASAP.
But, assigning tasks is only half of the equation. You also need to be able to easily follow up on the tasks you delegate. You can do this via the task list in Work > ToDos or, if you want to dig deeper into the data, by creating a smartlist.
Let’s say you assigned five tasks to five people on Monday, all of which are set for a Friday deadline. On Wednesday, you decide to check if everything’s on track.
You can simply create a smartlist that filters for tasks you created on Monday and includes the five people to whom you assigned those tasks.
That smartlist will then let you quickly view those five tasks you delegated on Monday to those five people. You can then slice and dice the data further by sorting the results according to priority, status, and more.
You are then able to quickly see which of the delegated tasks are on track and which are lagging behind the others.
These skills are just a few of the many essential characteristics that make a successful project manager. Not everyone may have them, but with WORKetc acting as the central hub from which you manage your projects, you have the tool to try and make sure that your projects go as smoothly as possible.