Project Management Essentials

We were joined by Daniel from KPMG and Gary from HnB Accountants to discuss the role of a Project Manager within an organisation and the benefits that they bring.

Project Managers are key in delivering a project on time and budget. When selecting a Project Manager, you have to look for a person with excellent organisational skills, good communication skills, and exceptional reporting.

You get two types of Project Managers – technical and business – so depending on what you need them for, you might have two Project Managers running side by side on a project.

Project Management is crucial, but not as simple as choosing someone, popping them in position and hoping that the project is going to be delivered on time and on budget.

David Lenberg – Client Service Director at Exo Digital

What to look for in a business or team and how to match up a Project Manager

When running a project without a project manager, the relationship between the organisations or the buyer and the seller can be quite adversarial, particularly when trying to deliver something very complex and large scale.

Project Management requires a common understanding of the project from both parties, but the Project Manager goes one step further and gives these organisations joint ownership of the problem. The Project Manager is that person that sits between the two organisations and pulls everything together.

When looking for a Project Manager, you need someone with a diversity of experience of skills; you don’t want someone that is distinctly from one field of expertise.

A Project Managers large body of work is translating technical subject matter into something understandable and relatable. A diversity of experience helps that translation.

Daniel R – Management Consultant at KPMG Australia

When establishing a project, all organisations involved must ensure that they agree on the Project Manager to avoid conflict down the line. Conflict can result in the project stalling or coming to a complete stop or cause scope creep, budget blow-outs, and extensive schedules that drag on for years.

Appointing a Project Manager – bringing in a third party or hiring from within

A Project Manager can certainly be someone from within either organisation involved in the project, but there must be buy-in from the other party. There has to be an agreement between both parties in appointing that person.

Superimposing someone into that role is very difficult, particularly if it’s the selling organisation that’s appointing because the buyer or customer won’t necessarily have visibility or control in that instance. This situation makes it very hard for the buyer to ensure that they’re getting value for money.

If a team member is being pulled into a project to be a Project Manager, they must have experience in that role. If an individual isn’t suited for the role or has never done it before, the organisation will inevitably have to bring in a third party to take over.

Gary Brown – Managing Partner at HnB Accountants

Communication and knowledge are pivotal to achieving a successful project outcome. The role of the Project Manager is essentially the six aspects of the Project Lifecycle: Scoping, Scheduling, Finance, Risk, Quality, Resources. The Project Manager required will depend on the project’s complexity and the person’s ability to communicate between the team and the customer, bringing the customer on the journey through the project.

Project Managers are everywhere and there’s all different types, but you need to choose a Project Manager that suits the organisation, stakeholders, maturity of the business, and their willingness to be led by someone potentially external to their organisation.

David Lenberg – Client Service Director at Exo Digital

A Project Manager shouldn’t be thought of in isolation; it’s certainly a product of the project itself.

Daniel R – Management Consultant at KPMG Australia

How to determine the complexity of a project

The scope of a project is in the price. Looking at how big the problem is that needs to be solved, how many areas of the business are affected by the problem, and how quickly it needs to be fixed will significantly influence the project’s cost.

It also comes down to how complex the organisation itself is and its relationships. If you don’t have engaged stakeholders who have buy-in to the project, they can make operating any change unmanageable.

If you start at the project’s objective, then the cost schedules, scope in the organisation, etc., all become the parts of the business that you can play with within the team to manage complexity. Agreeing on the outcome from the get-go and working backwards is generally how complexity is managed.

Daniel R – Management Consultant at KPMG Australia

Certainly, you can deliver an objective by having a fast and straightforward project with low complexity, but if you agree on the objective and then work backwards, the time frame, cost, etc., all become your constraints to work within.

Set a vision for senior stakeholders and ensure that everyone is aligned and working towards the same objective. It makes a huge difference, and it’s also where engagement across the organisation is pointed in one direction.

The failure of projects is sometimes because there might be one out of a handful of people that hasn’t engaged with the objective, and that starts to put roadblocks in the way. Negate that right at the start of the project.

David Lenberg – Client Service Director at Exo Digital

Project Managers, Stakeholder Confidence and Buy-in from the offset

One of the values of a Project Manager is to be on top of communication and make sure that clear objectives align both the client and the team goals.

A helpful and simple framework for Project Managers to use is SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timebound. This allows the Project Manager to scope the project out correctly and also get the client on the project journey.

Robert Wijaya – Director and Founder at Exo Digital

The clue to the role of a Project Manager is in the title – Manager. You’re not setting or directing; you’re managing. Management and accountability are a critical part of the role and are crucial in keeping clients happy.

Another way of approaching project management is having an agreed-upon scope upfront and then adapting as you go. Set the right precedents and fidelity of details which allows for change and mitigate the risks later down the track.

Robert Wijaya – Director and Founder at Exo Digital

One attribute of a Project Manager is being able to quiet the chaos and spread the calm. It’s a critical thing that you look for when trying to find a Project Manager.

Daniel R – Management Consultant at KPMG Australia

In Summary

The ideal process of identifying whether you need a Project Manager and then finding a good fit looks something like this: Identify the problem, run discovery to find different solutions, commit to the solution, assemble your team, create SMART goals around the main objective, scope out the project, and bring in a third party Project Manager if necessary.

As a business owner, there’s all these amazing ideas that can change, grow and enhance your business, and then there’s a priority. It comes down to a question of resources to prioritse these ideas and implement them. First identify the problem or opportunity and then work out how much money you’re really willing to spend to resolve that.

Gary Brown – Managing Partner at HnB Accountants

When running a company, you’re empowering others to do your job. The easiest way to do this is to rely on others, set the right goals, and have accountability in place.

Allow these people to make decisions, as long as the business owner is involved, and then have psychological safety regarding the parameters that the founder or managing director sets.

In terms of scale and growth of the business, hiring the right people with the right mindset and empowering those people to make decisions is essential. It comes down to push and pull management.

The job of the leader is not to be in the business, but on the business.

Robert Wijaya – Director and Founder at Exo Digital

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