Managing multistage projects is an under-appreciated art. To become a great Project Manager you need a pinch of talent, a great dose of communication and organizational skills – the rest is hard work and experience.
At Divante, we had a team of skilled and effective Project Managers, with great experience in big eCommerce projects for B2B and B2C companies. They are more than happy to share their knowledge and expertise. Recently, three of them – Iza Majer, Grzesiek Bandurowski, and Wojtek Gajewski have taken part in the workshops at PM Session Conference organized in Wroclaw. Below you’ll find a bunch of information about the workshops themselves, as well as a lot of facts that can be useful in a Project Manager everyday work.
What was the main goal of these workshops? How did the tasks look like?
Grzesiek: We wanted to highlight the most common problems that Project Managers face during their work. We need to deal with a great amount of chaos, which is usually caused by the lack of necessary information. It’s crucial for young adepts to know and identify these problems and learn how to handle them.
Iza: The participants were divided into groups with similar skills, they worked on a collaborative project – building a city. We provided them with general information only – to simulate the situation that often takes place in a real project. We didn’t tell them that they need to ask us to get more details – and it’s a real situation that we bump into during our every day work. It’s important to learn to ask the right questions and listen to the clients to better understand their real needs.
Grzesiek: Yes, it’s true. It’s common that sometimes clients don’t know what they actually want. I mean, yes, they have a final vision of the product, in our case – eCommerce platform, but they don’t know how to transform this vision into the reality. There’s nothing wrong with it – it’s actually our job to understand their needs and requirements and choose the best solutions. During the workshops, some groups started without any questions. Over time, they realized that asking questions is necessary to complete the project.
You mention about asking questions. How about building the relationship with the client?
Iza: It’s all about trust. At the beginning of the project, the client must feel that he’s talking with a reliable person with a great doze of experience. So it’s good for project managers to have good communication skills as well. It’s good to understand your place in the project – a great Project Manager is some kind of bridge between the client and the company they work for. The client must understand that you play on the same team.
How about the crisis situation?
Grzesiek: One of our tasks is to minimize the risk of crisis. But, when one appears, at first, we need to find out, why it happened. Understanding the causes help us avoid such situations in the future. What’s more, we need to do our best to solve it quickly and rebuild trust. Changing a Project Manager is not a good solution here. In some cases yes, as soon as the situation isn’t, let’s say, disciplinary, there’s no need to do that.
Iza: It’s better to convince the client that it’s better to work with the same person. Of course, changing the PM seems to be the simplest solution, still, it isn’t – in a long term. We need to find an optimal balance here. The client must feel that he’s in charge of the project, but they can’t put too much pressure. And it’s another challenge that a PM faces.
How about the tools that help you to manage the projects?
Grzesiek: When it comes to technical tools, I’d mention Jira, tickets systems and communication tools as Hipchat or Slack. There’s many available tools, and a PM should choose these that fit into the project and the people working on it. It’s also important to have some, let’s say, soft tools, like planning, support, and organization.
What would you recommend people that consider becoming a PM?
Iza: It’s good to start early. Although there’re lots of worth reading books about project management, you need to practice to achieve the best results. So, it’s a good idea to engage in smaller projects during the studies or in non-profit organizations. You can gain a lot of experience and know the ins and outs of managing the project.