(Julie, Dea, Elyse)
Motivated. Hard working. Thorough. They’re all words that adequately describe our project managers. They’ll be the first to say that it’s not about them. We say it is, and we’re glad they’re on our team.
An Envative project manager – or PM, because we’re fans of succinctness – is responsible for making client projects get off the ground and finish as smoothly as possible. What is it like to walk in their shoes? It’s not easy, given the fact their feet are considerably smaller. I’ve already digressed.
While some business professionals struggle to justify getting out of bed every morning, the Envative PM wakes with vigor. Why?
“We may work six months or a year through changing requirements, unforeseen obstacles, etc., then one day, the client’s app is in the iTunes and Google Play stores and people in the marketplace are using it,” says PM Dea. “And I think, ‘Hey, I helped that get there.’”
That’s the reward. But the journey is half the fun. Let’s take a look at a day in the life of Dea, Elyse, and Julie.
The first thing to make note of is, these women have a lot on their plate. Among other tasks, they are responsible for multi-tasking, prioritizing, negotiating, scheduling, documenting requirements, advocating for the client, advocating for Envative, setting client expectations, rallying the troops to meet deadlines, motivating developers, monitoring and addressing “scope creep”, identifying and executing project change requests, communicating, quality assurance, and resource planning.
Because no two people are alike, each PM has a different idea of what tasks require the most attention to detail. For instance, Dea targets scope creep management as a big challenge. For Elyse, something else comes to mind.
“One of the biggest challenges in communicating with clients is juggling our crazy schedules as a project manager on top of those of a busy client,” says Elyse. “Very often, a client contact that is responsible for making the decisions regarding a project at Envative has 19 other job roles at their office that they must fulfill in addition to working with us.”
Scope creep occurs when tasks and expectations change, exceeding the originally agreed upon project scope.
“Many clients don’t know how to define their requirements, and ‘I’ll know when I see it’ is a tough criterion to meet,” Dea says. “It’s my job to set expectations accordingly so that we still meet client objectives within a budget and timeline everyone can live with.”
But perhaps I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Before scope and communication updates takes place, the processes of negotiation and documentation play an important role in the day of a PM. Both make up the foundation of a job, a blueprint of sorts that includes what steps will be taken toward successful project completion.
“Negotiation between multiple stakeholders within the client’s organization can really impact how we approach a business problem,” says Julie. “Sometimes getting the client to talk internally helps us to build a better product for them.”
Besides that step, Elyse explains that the process must begin with step-by-step note taking.
“I think of requirements documentation as the foundation of the project,” Elyse says. “Without a solid foundation, everything you build on top of it is weak and vulnerable and prone to failure and disappointment. It is absolutely essential to make every effort -- up front -- to identify what it is the client is looking for, why, and how we as a development shop plan to achieve that.”
From the client’s perspective, Dea says it’s good to know the following three things:
“Give us the opportunity to address any concerns you may have when it happens by letting us know.”
“We don’t have all of the answers, but rest assured that we will get them.”
“It’s in your best interest to work through your PM as your primary point of contact.”
The PMs are consistently working on behalf of the client, because they care.
“Whether it’s from the user perspective or budget perspective, your PM is here to look out for you,” Dea says. “At the end of the day, if you don’t look good, we don’t look good.”
One thing clients are usually surprised to find out prior to the start of a project is how much effort PMs put into translating something we call the Statement of Work into fully defined project requirements.
“While the SOW, (the signed agreement for the project), is fairly well detailed, we still need to discuss every requirement and related scenario, every screen and every function to ensure that the solution is architected appropriately up front to meet client needs,” Dea says. “This helps to avoid re-work later on.”
Much of the job also includes interacting with a group of genius-level geeks (they really call themselves that – the geek part, that is) who are responsible for creating the code that will bring the requirements to life. While they’re amicable guys, they are on a different plane than most folks. And we can’t forget the designers, who are needed to make things aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly. That’s why it’s necessary for a PM to “rally the troops” and serve as an interpreter of sorts.
“Giving developers and designers credit for the challenging work that they do and appreciating their skill and breadth of knowledge goes a long way,” says Elyse. These guys are super smart. It helps to hear that on the regular.”
Julie says she finds learning about different types of business and being able to help clients improve their workflow is the most enjoyable part of the job. And while the work is arduous, Elyse says she really enjoys being an Envative PM due to the position’s variety and flexibility. Oh, and one more important reason.
“Working for people who are directly invested in -- and committed to – their business is a pleasure,” she says. “There is a sense of pride and ownership here, and I love being part of that collective good.”
“We have many projects going on at once and many shifting priorities, but we all find ways to work as a team.”
Well said, ladies. Well said.