Posted Mar 08, 2016 by Andrea Evans
In almost any line of work, you have to prove value: the value of the work that you do, the service that you provide and even the role that you play on the team. This is especially true for project managers, or PMs. It’s not uncommon for clients or potential clients to ask “So…what do you do as a PM?” Which, hey. It’s a legitimate question and often comes from the fact that PMs in different companies take on different roles. And it’s also not anything new to hear a client questioning why they have to pay for our time “Can’t we just have the developer handle this?”
Well today, here and now, I’m here to answer those questions. To take a stand for PMs everywhere and say, “Yes, you need us. Yes, we’re valuable. And yes, you have to pay for our time, too.”
Let me start by saying that in the tech industry (and I’m sure other industries) a PM’s job will look slightly different from one company to the next, and sometimes it even varies by project within an organization. PMs often wear many hats and serve different functions on the team. A Human Element Project Manager is no different.
We don’t just relay requests from the client to the developer and back again (although this is an important function and I’ll explain why later). We also act as consultants – constantly considering the potential of a client’s site, making recommendations, and perceiving the bigger picture. We’re critical thinkers and problem-solvers. We are often planning for the next piece of development that will increase conversion rates, grow sales, and improve overall usability.
If you have a PM in your life or have talked to one, you know how much they LOVE spreadsheets and planning. We’re no different here. Project managers at Human Element are like record keepers. We plan for the future, keep track of the present and report the past. At any given moment, we know where a project is at and what needs to be done next. It’s what we do.
We’re also experts on your website’s admin interface. If you call up a Human Element PM and ask them “How do I do such-and-such in Magento?” they’ll walk you through it. We know how a piece of functionality is supposed to work on a particular site. We’ve talked through the requirements and expectations with the client. We write the ticket, get it scheduled, check in with the Devs, and QA when it’s done. Speaking of QA…
Human Element PMs act as our Front End QA team, as well. Because we’re the most familiar with your store and your requirements for developing a particular feature, we make sure it’s working correctly before you see it. This is one of the most important skills our PMs have. Good QA makes your life so much easier.
Having a single point of contact between the client and the team helps to move tasks and projects forward while staying in scope and within budget. It’s more efficient to funnel questions through someone who understands your business and site than it is to ask a developer who may have worked on your site only a few times.
When a client makes a request, I see it as my job to ask probing questions and get to the bottom of the problem that they’re attempting to solve. Sometimes there’s a better approach or the client is addressing a symptom and we can see more clearly where the problem lies. It’s not always an easy conversation, but sometimes clients come up with some not-so-great solutions to specific business problems, and it’s my job to talk them down and explain why there is a better way. Human Element PMs have a ton of experience in eCommerce implementations. Many of us are Magento Certified Solutions Specialists, so we know how to craft a good solution. In this capacity, we often think of ourselves as consultants – constantly considering the potential of a client’s site, making recommendations, and really taking a step back to see the bigger picture.
For projects large and small, clients usually have a timeline and a budget in mind. PMs strive to make sure that the full scope of our projects are completed, on time and on budget. If we’re doing our job we can see if one of those 3 criteria isn’t going to hit the mark. At that point we work to mitigate the impact, start communicating with the client and do everything we can to get things back on track. A developer should be focused on building the best solution. Without the project manager in the mix a developers focus is divided and they are effectively driving the project and trying to develop it at the same time.
A good development team needs a good project manager. In reality, a good PM can make or break a project. Here at Human Element, we like to think we are valued by our clients for all our hard work, but…hey. Why not thank your PM today for all the hard work they put in? I’m sure your PM would love to hear it.