It seems simple, right? The project manager: one who manages projects.
But there is a lot of meaning behind that word 'manage'. So the more appropriate question might be, what does a successful project manager do? And, how do we successfully manage a project?
At Bluespark, we take a very deliberate approach to project management. It’s not an add on. It’s not just someone who takes weekly notes and sets up meetings. And it’s not a developer with the added responsibility of making sure all tickets are estimated.
It's a crucial role that is foundational to successful undertakings and projects of all types, scope, and size. This role isn’t new to an agency of course, but at Bluespark, we also want to form a strong relationship with you and really get to know you and your organization’s needs. The PM is one of the means we use to do this.
One of the hallmarks of running a successful project at Bluespark is to acknowledge what skills we bring to the table and to be sure we share those with you and use them to your advantage.
We want to review what our roles will be during the project and how we will help to deliver a quality product or project at the end of it. For brevity, I’ve narrowed it to the top five skill sets and methods we incorporate that I think are crucial to any client relationship during an engagement with us.
1. Communication — Perhaps the greatest “soft-skill” a project manager can possess
For a project to have any chance of success we must always excel at highly skilled interpersonal communication. Yes, this can include setting up meetings and taking detailed notes, but it also involves crucial elements of planning to the budget and scope and time line of the project — just for starters.
During the entire engagement, we have to effectively articulate our status to each of these three hallmarks of a project — to the client and the team. And at all times, the PM must have a firm grasp as to where each of these hallmarks on a project is and course correct as needed.
2. Transparency — If we do need a course correction you are going to know about it
This implies that everything we do at Bluespark is transparent, and it is. Clients have access to JIRA (our ticketing system) as well as Confluence (our wiki for a project) so they can at all times see our status and the tasks we are working. We hold daily stand ups on the project and weekly client meetings with you to review the work ahead of us, potential blockers etc.
But our PMs make sure that all is being tracked transparently so the client, and our own team knows who is doing what at all times. If there are issues that need to be brought up in this examination, we make sure everyone knows about them. We are here to help review any of those questions that you are unsure of, or how things are really running.
3. Honesty — If you can’t trust the driver, how do you know you are on the right path?
I truly believe outside of communication, this is one of the most important qualities any PM possesses. At Bluespark, we take this seriously. We honestly review with the client if we have slipped behind our projections and why. Are we meeting our objectives? Are we planning for risks and unknowns?
All of this is honestly and effectively communicated to you — and if we are off the track, then we will have a frank conversation on how we will work together to course correct.
The Project Management Institute has a code of conduct for PMs that has honesty and ethics at its core, but at Bluespark you don’t have to have a PMP to strive toward this goal. Because we are not “just” doing project work for you, we are forming a relationship with you and your company that we hope will last many years.
And, at the core of any solid relationship there is trust and honesty.
4. Efficiency — The whole goal of having someone manage everything, is to do it in the most efficient way possible
I think we excel at this at Bluespark because we are a fully distributed company.
Time counts not only toward meeting task deadlines and milestones, but our time internally is very important. When we have meetings with the client or our team internally, we are always conscious of everyone’s time and priorities. It may be early or late in the day for some of us, so efficiency takes high priority. This carries over into our projects and how we work.
We use an Agile development process so we can continually deliver to our established goals and milestones. We plan each sprint and hold retrospectives to make sure we are optimizing time and process. And at intervals along the way, we hold demos with the client so they can see our progress. All of this adds up to efficient delivery.
5. Adaptivity— If we are practicing Agile, you know we are always working with flexibility in mind
And we are! One of the things I have learned from being a PM all these years is that no matter how well planned things are, project needs may alter. A stakeholder may change their mind on what has become more important internally. A feature that was going to be in “phase 2” gets elevated based on a changing business need.
Agile development of course aids us in these pivots, but the PM has to use all the points I mentioned above — to be honest and transparent and to effectively and efficiently communicate what the changes may mean to the timeline or the budget. We will work with you to re-prioritize as needed.
But since we are also building a relationship with you, we will work with you to craft any changes along the way we both think makes sense. Perhaps during development, our team sees an advancement to a business need that we want to share with you — something we think as advisors and experts in this field that may benefit the way you do business.
We are not just working tickets, we are always thinking of new and better ways to do things and when applicable, we want to share that with you.
Changes don’t have to be disastrous. In fact, they can be immensely beneficial; they just need to be mutually addressed and prioritized.
One of the goals of the PMs at Bluespark is not just finishing a project successfully and confirming deliverables have been met, but we also need to make sure that your team and ours are happy with the results. Quality matters in everything we do. We constantly strive to work with you during a project to make this happen so we can all agree that the project was a success and adds value to your business.
We’d love to discuss the role of the PM in greater detail with you, and how we work in conjunction with the many other roles at Bluespark. Get in touch.