The success of your Project Managers (PMs) can make or break your firm. Right?
Considering all of the tasks that the typical project manager is required to perform, it is no wonder that many PMs get frustrated or even lose money! I did an assessment 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
- Documentation of work product
- Managing subcontractors
- Scheduling and using resources effectively
- Maintaining high utilization
- Solving client problems
- 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)
- Nurturing client relationships
- Recruiting and interviewing new hires
- Mentoring and training staff
- Managing staff performance, and dealing with performance and behavior issues
- Managing contractual deliverables
- Avoiding scope creep and/or billing for extra services
- Preparing for and attending internal and external meetings
- Business development and networking (including events, social media, etc.)
And what’s really troubling is that most PMs are not trained in many of these areas! How can they be successful at so many things without the right skills, mindset and processes? Here are five steps you can take to make their job easier, which will impact their ability to bring in successful and profitable projects:
1. Develop streamlined and effective processes
Efficiency 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 every day such as creating project estimates and proposals, managing project budgets, responding to client inquiries, keeping projects in scope, and approving employee time sheets, specific processes should be developed and documented. Remember, processes are just the “best way to do something.”
2. Educate 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 formal education. It is ineffective to throw reports at them with lots of concepts and terminology and expect them to understand them, let alone produce great results. It is proven that properly trained PMs produce more profitable projects. Investing in training on time management, financial reporting, project planning, and utilization management will provide a great return on investment for your management team.
3. Arm them with 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. Exception reporting is another way to make their jobs easier. This is a method of reporting that highlights projects that are struggling 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.
4. 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. It is not cost effective to have your most expensive resources, your PMs, weighed down with routine tasks and updating databases. You can increase PM efficiency, allowing them to focus their attention where it is best utilized, by providing them with additional, lower cost administrative resources. Leveraging your best resources is vital to having happy and productive managers.
5. Create a culture of accountability
The best-selling author Peter Drucker is quoted as saying that “People do what is measured.” In other words, your firm needs a clear way to quantify expectations, and an effective 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 important 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 critical financial aspects of the project.
Focusing on your firm’s people, processes, and systems will uncover areas in need of improvement and re-engineering. Employees are your firm’s greatest asset, and by removing obstacles to getting their jobs done, you can make a huge impact on their productivity, and ultimately project profit margins.
June R. Jewell, CPA is the author of the book, Find the Lost Dollars: 6 Steps to Increase Profits in Architecture, Engineering, and Environmental Firms. She has over 30 years of business management software consulting experience, working with project-based professional services firms to support business profitability through web-based enterprise management technology.
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This article was updated February 21, 2017