Shaun the sheep
30th Jan 2017

Why you need a (great) project manager

So you’re watching The Apprentice, and the cocky team manager has just declared that they’re the “best of the best!” and that ‘”failure is not an option!”.  A few minutes later, you’re guffawing at the TV as their project falls apart around them, with budgets and plans out the window, and their team is running round like cats on skates. Sir Alan is not going to be happy...!

Any idiot can claim to be a project manager, and, frankly, you know you could do a better job yourself. So when your friendly software developer adds on a 10% “project management” charge, you might consider telling them “You’re Fired”. But hold onto your Amstrads for a minute, it’s not that simple...

Good project managers create order from chaos, and make sure that your projects run smoothly and successfully.

They’re the unsung heroes of many businesses, and without them many projects would take longer, cost more, and be less successful overall. They manage a myriad of tasks and juggle a whole box full of frogs. And you begrudge them a measly 10%? How could you...

Life as a project manager can be harsh and lonely, so as a way of giving thanks to all of the great project managers out there, here’s a breakdown of what project managers do, and why you should love them for it.

  • They build a great team:  A project manager ensures the right people are involved from the start and encourages strong relationships. Successful projects start with a great team, and the project manager is at the centre.  
    At Versantus each project uses a cross-disciplinary team of design, user experience, development and content. The team structure changes each time, and our project managers need to know how to get the best out of each person individually and as a team.
  • They plan for success:   If you want to deliver on time, and stay on budget, you need a well thought through and realistic plan. Your project manager’s job is to put this plan together and make sure everyone knows it, understands it, and sticks to it.  
    We pick the best tools for each project, combining traditional scheduling tools like Gantt charts and calendars with agile systems of user stories and sprints. 
  • They know that communication is key: A good project manager listens to everyone and acts as the knowledge hub for the team, sharing news, ideas, priorities, issues and changes with everyone. If everyone knows what’s going on, there are no surprises.  
    We have daily meetings with our project teams and clients throughout a project to make sure everyone’s up to speed. It allows us to react quickly to opportunities and changes. Collaboration tools like Google Drive and JIRA mean we can be completely transparent, and you always know what’s going on. 
  • They love change and control risk: Successful projects will adapt quickly to new information and new ideas, but changes can introduce risks. A project manager needs to identify, communicate and manage these opportunities to ensure they can be implemented where it’s desirable, and avoided where it’s not.  
    We encourage change and innovation at Versantus, and by developing projects in phases or sprints, we can better manage these changes and deliver a better result.
  • They raise quality:  Everybody likes to create amazing products, but “amazing” doesn’t often mean “perfect”. Time, money and effectiveness are always important considerations when developing a website or software product - there’s no point having the best new website of 2017 if you’re not launched until March 2018... A great project manager will balance all of a project’s constraints, and keep everyone focused on delivering the best possible quality for that project. 
    At Versantus, we use best-in-class open source software with agile and waterfall software development techniques, along with regular and thorough testing to give you high quality solutions every time.
  • They keep the purse strings tight:  A good project manager will save you money. By helping you to set a realistic budget, with clear project risks and contingency planning, and with timely and accurate communication throughout, they can make sure a project delivers a high quality solution for the right price.  
    Cost is an important consideration for every project, and our thoughtful approach means that we think hard about what you really need, and will always offer honest and clear advice to help you spend your money more wisely. 
  • They capture the knowledge:  Every project teaches us something new, and project managers make sure that this knowledge is captured and reused, saving time and money, and improving quality in the future.  
    We hold ‘wash-up’ meetings after each project, learning from the successes and failures. We encourage everyone in the team to give honest feedback and we’re always striving to improve.

Whatever The Apprentice tells you, project management is not all about Armani suits and shouting. Good project managers are leaders, teachers, accountants and therapists. Like a graceful swan, they look serene, but below the surface you can be sure they are paddling like crazy to keep your project running smoothly. And just like a swan, if you mess up their Gantt chart they’ll break your arm.!

So if you know a great project manager, why not go and give them a hug or a high-five and say thanks?

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