When planning a large project, such as a website redesign or a rewrite of your attorney bio pages, it is often easy to think the project can be managed by the head of your law firm marketing department, a managing attorney or the vendor you hired to help with the job. However, truth be told, choosing one of these routes will often result in the project coming in over budget and past your deadline. For large projects like these, it is wise to assign a project manager to the task.
What exactly can a project manager bring to the table? Here are six skills.
Planning is an essential and crucial element of any project. Project management ensures setting proper expectations about what can be delivered, by when and for how much. Project managers negotiate reasonable and achievable deadlines and milestones among stakeholders, teams and management. Before the project kick-off, a project manager will help you:
- Define and clarify project scope
- Develop the project plan
- Develop the project schedule
- Develop policies and procedures to support the achievement of the project objectives
Project management sets up the project team’s structure so the plan created during the planning phase can be executed effectively. The project manager organizes projects into phases and task lists. They assign tasks to people and get status reports so everyone knows they are on time and under budget. Project managers know where each piece of the project is and where it is going next to ensure that all components are moving through the workflow in a timely manner. Project managers are experts at juggling different reports, deadlines, tasks, meetings, risks and QA issues – so you don’t have to.
Communication and Accountability
One of the most critical steps in the project management process is to ensure that communication lines are open. Project managers enable confident, clear and concise communication within the project team, and between the project team and the wider organization. This helps ensure the project is headed in the right direction. Having a central communications person decreases confusion and increases accuracy.
Management of Cost and Time
Project managers not only ensure that projects stick to the scope and timeframe, but also that they deliver on budget. Effective project managers should be able to negotiate reasonable and achievable deadlines and milestones among stakeholders, teams and management. Too often, the urgency placed on delivery compromises the necessary steps, and ultimately, the quality of a project’s outcome.
This is not to say that most projects won’t encounter changes, additions and delays – even with a project manager involved. However, having a project manager on board will ensure that you will be informed immediately about how these changes will affect the timeline and budget. The project manager can help you work through these changes so the project gets back on track and continues to move toward completion.
Let’s face it: Project managers are control freaks. They are continually measuring, evaluating and correcting throughout a project. This element of project management is important because it ensures the quality of whatever is being delivered consistently hits the mark. Control tools and techniques that are implemented throughout the process help to confirm that the project is meeting quality standards and provide a basis for corrective action.
Project managers draw on past successes and failures to make sure past mistakes won’t happen on your project. They know what tools they need to use to keep the project organized and on track. They understand the importance of and are able to think “big picture” while still able to focus on the minute details of day-to-day tasks.
It may be tempting to cut out the project manager line item of your budget to save a few dollars. However, a project manager is the glue of your next project. Their main job is to bring a particular project to completion, both on time and within budget. In the long run, having a competent project manager overseeing your next project will most likely save you time, money and a headache!