You take your seat on opening night. The lights dim, and a hush falls over the crowd. As the conductor walks to the podium, the musicians stand and join the audience in applause before taking their seats.
No one questions why a conductor leads a symphony orchestra. Each of the extraordinary musicians went through grueling auditions to beat out other extraordinary musicians. The finalists are experts at their craft, just like everyone on your project team. Yet, the value of the conductor is understood.
Like conductors, project managers understand the bigger picture and how everyone works together to create a masterpiece — or, in our case, a successful project. The whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts.
Now, I’m not saying project teams should applaud their project managers at the beginning of each meeting. But if you’re one of the skeptics who questions their worth, below are four ways project managers help conduct the masterful symphony that is your business project.
- They deliver projects on time, on budget, and within scope.
This is what most people think of when it comes to project managers. They’re the taskmasters who help ensure you deliver your projects on time and on budget. They also keep everyone focused on the agreed-upon deliverables to minimize scope creep, which can wreak havoc on the aforementioned budget and timeline.
According to the Project Management Institute, implementing proven project management practices makes projects two and a half times more successful and wastes 13 times less money. As a project manager, I align resources, schedule meetings with clear goals and an agenda, and ensure everyone is prepared and meeting deadlines. There is a lot of prep work and follow-up to keep everything moving. Most people don’t see what’s happening behind the scenes, so it’s easy to take project management for granted.
- They ensure the right things are delivered and provide real value.
While finishing on time and on budget are important, none of it matters if you’re not delivering the right things. A client will typically come to us with a specific need, such as migrating from one system to another. However, they may not have considered how moving to a new system will impact different groups across the organization, or factored in time for training.
Nothing is cookie cutter in our world. When we first speak with the client, we work to understand the business objective and get to the heart of what they need out of the project. As project managers, our job is to listen and take in what the client says to us so we deliver not only what they ask for, but also what they need. Additionally, client expectations or scope sometimes shift as the project progresses. Our job is to catch those changes, set expectations, and realign our resources when necessary.
- They bring leadership and direction to the project.
A project manager’s most important job is to provide leadership and direction. Here at DemandGen, I help orchestrate, if you will, things in the background, which our clients may not realize. I’ll coordinate internally with the MarTech and consulting teams, as well as set meeting agendas and align resources.
Before I became a project manager, it was a challenge to get projects across the finish line. There wasn’t a single individual who was empowered to gather requirements, assign resources, and oversee every detail from beginning to end. As a project manager, I’m involved from the first client meeting through the successful completion of the project.
- They keep things moving.
When multiple people are responsible for completing tasks and meeting deadlines, there are bound to be a few surprises. Maybe a critical team member gets sick, or another project pops up and takes priority. It’s the project manager’s job to navigate these roadblocks and keep things moving forward.
The most unusual roadblock I’ve ever experienced was actually a hurricane that threatened the entire east coast (not really on the list of things you have any control over!). Our client was located on the east coast. Fortunately, they didn’t get hit, but our Client Engagement Manager was based in Florida and lost power for three weeks. While we couldn’t control the weather, I brought other resources onto the project and we didn’t miss any communication or deadlines during that time. As the lead on the project, I could oversee everything that was happening and align resources quickly.
So, the next time you kick off a project, don’t forget to include the conductor — I mean project manager. We’re not looking for applause. We’re too busy orchestrating your next project.
Carolyn Acker is a marketing operations and customer experience management professional. As a DemandGen Sr. Project Manager, she drives consistent project management practices across all DemandGen products to create a unified and effective customer experience. In her previous role as a DemandGen Campaign Manager, Carolyn provided a strategic campaign framework for our clients to help them develop, implement and enforce workflow processes. She has extensive knowledge of campaign generation, execution tactics and best practices, to help the client achieve campaign success. Other articles by Carolyn Acker: Campaign Process Optimization: A Deep-Dive into Key Success Factors