A year ago, before I became one of Project Assistant’s project managers, I stopped to wonder once in a while, what it was like to be one. Because to the outside eye, it looked like they just opened emails, created tasks, assigned them to developers or designers and have calls with clients. Like how hard can that be?
It wasn’t until I was given the chance to fill-in for my former PM for almost a month did I come to fully understand the role. Before her holiday, she briefed me on what she did, letting me sit-in on her calls with clients and reviewed all the projects the company was handling. During the first few weeks of training, it seemed easy enough.
When the day came that I was left in charge, I can still remember how mildly stressed and nervous I was. (Mildly because I had to keep it to a minimum) My only comfort was telling myself, that if she can do, so can I. And I kept at it until the month passed and everything was back to normal. A month after that, I was given the opportunity to become an official project manager. It was bliss for a little while because after the bliss, comes reality and greater responsibilities. But that’s real life.
So if you’re looking into becoming a project manager too, just know that this job requires you to do mainly 3 things: Planning & Tracking, Communicating and Documenting or in short – PTCD. There are still others out there, but these 3 are the general basics for most.
Planning & Tracking
Project managers are the bridges between clients and the company’s developers and designers. Planning and tracking are the first steps to that. When a new project presents itself, the Project Manager is informed and a meeting with the client is set.
After meeting with a client, you will have had an idea of their goal, project scope, and expected launch dates. As a project manager, it’s your job to plan how to effectively and efficiently carry out the project. You start with basics, meet with the team, discuss the project scope, assign roles and plan out the timeline. Then you present this to the client to set their expectations.
After planning, you execute. Breakdown the project scope into User Stories and assign it to the respective team members. Then you start tracking. Track their progress daily, weekly and monthly. You need to give updates to the client so they know you’re on track with the schedule and you can meet their expectations. If there is a delay in the schedule, either because of the client or the team, both parties should be informed. It’s the PMs job to re-plan again until the project is completed.
They say that being able to communicate effectively is the most important of all life skills. And by fact, that’s very true, especially more when you’re a project manager. You need to know how to communicate with your clients and team members to make sure you get the point across. Whether they’re sitting next to you or their an ocean away from you, communication is key.
With clients, you need to make sure you understand what their goals are with the project and that they are kept in the loop with everything that is going on. Project managers should schedule weekly calls with them and send them email updates so both sides are on the same page.
With your team, a daily standup meeting is a good practice. Sometimes you could be so busy that you don’t get to read all your emails on the updates, so a daily standup is a sure way to know the updates on the task from the developers themselves. And it also improves your relationship with the team.
As a project manager, one needs to learn the art of documenting. I know it’s a hassle at times. But truth be told, it’s very important. Part of the job is learning to identify what needs to be written down and what doesn’t. Most of the time, everything should be documented. From meeting notes, to file lists, to decision logs, how-to-articles and even task reports. Everything. Develop the habit of listening while taking down notes when talking to clients. Then after the call, do a recap of all the things discussed so the client knows you understand the goal and won’t have to repeat themselves.
Documentation also comes in handy when either party forgets a detail about the project. That way you can go back to your notes as references. The same thing goes when you project manage your team. Document who does what, expected deadlines and important decisions made. Even the smallest update is important to be documented. If it comes down to an issue where someone needs to take accountability for something, the documentation of that task or update can easily point out the person responsible.
Whether you copy/paste it or write it down on a sticky note, the important thing is that the written agreement was saved. But with documentation also comes with learning how to organize where you put them down. Create a folder in your google drive, or make a bookmark tag or add an email tag to remember where you place the notes down. And maybe one day, documentation might just save you.
Today, these responsibilities are still evolving. Whether it’s a new way to Plan & Track, a more advanced communication platform or a new documentation process, there’s always room for change but the basics still come down to those 3. So if you want to become a Project Manager in the future, just remember: Planning & Tracking, Communicating and Documenting. And it can work with your life too; plan and track your future, tell your family and friends about it and document it on Facebook or Instagram. See? PTCD.