Why do I have a project manager on my team? What does my project manager do all day? Why am I paying for a project manager?
The role of a project manager can be loosely defined as the point of contact for the client, team planner…or the greatest multi-tasker alive.
While most of those descriptions are true, in all seriousness, a project manager may just be one of the most important roles on a team. I am going to walk you through a few key reasons why you may want to think twice before starting a project without a trusty project manager having your back.

Project Initiation

Typically an account executive will initiate the project, but it is vital to have a project manager involved in the very beginning as well. This gives the project manager a chance to meet and greet the client, establish a relationship, and gather all of the requirements for the project. The project manager then has to figure out, based on expertise and experience, who will be the best team for the project.

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The project don’t start till your PM rides in!

A PM on top of their game will make sure that the team assigned to your project will be available to work on it during the initial proposed timeframe from the client. Once a team is established, the project manager will schedule a project kickoff call that gives everyone a chance to meet, ask questions, and start the project planning.

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PMs, assemble your team!

Here’s a little bit about what that looks like, in list form:

  1. Introductions.
  2. Review the project requirements.
  3. Assign/schedule the team for the project.
  4. Schedule a project kickoff call.

Project Planning

Project planning is one of the most crucial steps in a project for the project manager. There are quite a few different tools and applications out there to help organize the project plan. At WebDevStudios, we are currently using Basecamp, which works great for what we need it to do.

At this point, your project manager has reviewed the scope of work, outlined milestones and deliverables, and assigned specific tasks to each individual on the project team to get the project started. One of the initial deliverables for the project manager themselves is a detailed timeline outlining the aforementioned milestones and deliverables to the client. Without a timeline, one of the main points in project planning could be missed: setting the client’s expectation! If your project manager does not make sure to set expectations of when milestones will be delivered, then they are setting the team up for failure and setting up the client for inevitable disappointment (an unhappy situation for everyone involved).

Here’s a breakdown of my process:

  1. Determine what tool works best for myself and my team, and put together a project plan.
  2. Set milestones and assign deliverables to those milestones.
  3. Outline a timeline based on those goals.
  4. Set the client’s expectation by providing a timeline.
  5. Schedule the team based on the hours outlined in the scope of work.
  6. Start the project!
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Joan Harris (née Holloway) is the ultimate project manager (and the kind of one you want working on YOUR business!).

If your team is using a tool like Basecamp, the project manager can add in task lists (and tasks) to get as granular as possible when outlining the scope of work for the team. The role of the project manager is to be certain the team is fully aware of the project details and requirements, as well as what marks they should be hitting in order to stay on track.

Client Communication

Email? Skype? Phone? Facebook? (Just kidding…don’t use Facebook!)

There are quite a few different ways you can communicate with your client. This can be convenient, but also cause confusion, missed communication, interruptions, and lack of organization. The project manager should establish a communication standard between the team and the client from the initiation of the project. My recommendation would personally be to use an online tool that multiple users can connect to and use that as your information hub for all communication. The project manager should make sure the client is aware of how/when you will be communicating from the beginning of the project.

That might look something like:

“I will be posting a weekly status update in Basecamp on Wednesday mornings. My update will include the following: Current status/progress of the project, next steps for our dev team, timeline status, and any outstanding questions from our team.”

I cannot stress enough how important it is for a project manager to over communicate each stage throughout the project.

Here are the basic stages that a PM should ensure they are communicating throughout:

  1. Introductions.
  2. Scope of work/project requirements.
  3. Timeline/Project plan.
  4. Status updates from your team.
  5. Status updates to the client.
  6. Delays/Issues.
  7. Project completion.

Project Execution/Completion

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It’s over, I’m done. Bye.

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Well, not quite…the project is coming to an end and the project manager has worked with the client and the developers to establish a launch plan–the final deliverable. The project manager should communicate that plan to the client and work with the dev team to ensure we have completed all deliverables up to this point. Once the project is done, the project manager should communicate this to the client and establish an official completion date.

For instance, the client may assume that your team built the site so, obviously, you will continue working on bugs and fixes forever. The project manager should establish what the final deliverable is, and communicate once that has been provided.

So now ask yourself this, what does my project manager do all day?

Like I said before…we are the greatest multi-taskers alive!

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And at the end of the project, this will be YOU (and us)!

Most PMs are not just leading one project at a time, but they are managing multiple projects for multiple clients at once, and many of them are in various phases. It requires attention to detail, advanced communication and organizational skills, and a positive attitude. Whether you’re a dev or a client, your PM will make your life easier by taking the guesswork out of what’s happening and when.


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