Project Management - A Look

I work in an interesting field - one that doesn't really get touted by universities in big banners or promotional campaigns, nor gets the same kind of mention as a Programmer, but a field that is incredible and vital for some companies that wish to move forward.

Project Management. It's quite a pain to define exactly what a project manager does. I say that, knowing that some people would grill me and define it in a few words. But each of those people would define it differently. Which is partially what makes Project Management such an interesting field. That's also one of the reasons it's such a strange field, though, as the expectations from project managers varies from company to company.

In my particular case, I facilitate the launching of websites for clients. Most (not all) project managers focus on a few HUGE projects a year (usually, not always), and generally get to dedicate their time to these projects with little else on their plate. In my case, however, I've managed the process of launching 30-40 websites at once. Granted, that's what it's like when I'm super flooded, but still. My goal is quality, then volume. I'm usually managing somewhere between 10-15 launches at any moment, all with different people, needs, etc.

So how do I manage all of this and keep a level head? How do I meet 15 different needs simultaneously? Also, how do I make sure I maintain a high level of customer satisfaction and give each client that feeling of a 1:1 ratio, while still spreading my time out amongst 15 of them? And how do I not work a ridiculous amount, while keeping projects on time?

One thing I will point out (before getting to the meat n' bones of this) is that this from the experienced I've gained working with people in the newspaper industry, who (once they realize they, too, want their ads online) are incredibly impatient sometimes, partially due to the fact that each of these projects lasts 4 weeks. Sometimes it's shorter than that, but sometimes it can go longer. These observations are just general thoughts and ideas.

Mantra: Manage the project, never let it manage you

This is possibly one of the most important lessons that you can learn, and it you can easily use it for whatever you do.

It is critical to remember that you are a Project Manager. Your abilities are within the scope of Managing Projects. Kinda weird, huh?

I think a lot of people get lost on this one, because they think that the project is the most important thing at that moment. But it isn't, because there's something else that's far more important. You.

Yes, you as a human being are far more important than any project. Doesn't matter how much money, time, effort, etc. has been invested. What matters is that it gets done. Or resolved. Or abandoned because it's been realized that it's not necessary. Or something else. But you need to keep you in mind. If it's too much, just say "no".

Think about that one guy in your office who's always really stressed, working late, and unable to stop jittering from the massive amounts of caffeine that he has to endure to stay awake and alert enough. He's always saying "Sure!" to taking on more work, but he's lost that touch that he had when he first started. He lost his finesse. He's still good, but lacking in customer satisfaction.

That's the guy who lets the project run his life.

Process Management, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and love the Process

Let me come out and say, very clearly, that processes can be the greatest productivity boosters in the world, as well as the biggest creativity killers, time wasters, and pains in the ass.

Here's the thing with processes. They have their place. They make common tasks easy to handle, because we know what we have to do every time. But let's be honest here: real actual creativity is hindered by the structure that processes can give us. Yes, we have processes that we go through when we're creative, but those processes are inconsistent as all hell, and rarely are the same each time.

But the really cool thing about processes is that we can let it control projects for us, without much thought. In my particular case, I have a sort of tiered system of processes for each site launch I do. There's a definite hierarchal system that must be followed if the site's to make it live, and be functional. There are also items that are "standalones" in that they don't depend on anything else, and nothing really depends on them (kind of) and can be done at any time. When one item gets finished, I usually quickly verify, record, and then assign the next item that needs to be done. This well-defined system allows me to not think about the minute details of the launch. They let me focus on the more important things, like site design, managing expectations from the client, setting up major backend revisions for their site should they need it, etc. As long as I keep tabs and push items along, I'm golden and don't need to think much other than "Cool, this is done". It also allows me to maximize my time in the Zone (scroll down the page for the section on that) and be as effective as possible.

Another important part of Process Management is knowing where all of your shit stands. You should be able to know with little effort where your project stands. What's done, what's being done, and what's to be done. If you cannot accomplish this, you're boned.

You should also know what issues and items the receiving party has had so far, so you can be aware of future requests, should they arise. Not required, but definitely helpful.

Timelines: How to not be completely off on time estimates

I figured this warranted it's own header, as it can be important to not PISS OFF A LOT OF PEOPLE.

One of the biggest mistakes I see made most commonly is the committal to the timeline as the end-all of the project. If you ever catch yourself saying "This item needs to be done by x time, but it'll be done by y time, and I can't do that, because the timeline says I can't", then you need to reread the first point of this post. The timeline should be a guide. If something isn't going to get done by the time the timeline says it should be, give a heads up to ALL affected parties that there's a darn good chance that you won't make the agreed upon deadline.

This isn't to say that timelines are always a bad thing, however. You can use them to gain backing, for instance, when an important item needs to get done at that particular moment. You can use it in the political sense, but this can get old, and make you look bad and increase tension pretty quick, among other things.

When plotting out a timeline, try to "pad" each date. For instance, if an item usually takes 2 days to turnaround under normal circumstances, then give that item 3 days in your timeline. If an item normally takes 1 week, give it two, or a week and a half. Remember, there's no penalty for getting things done early.


Productivity is not just when you know you're getting things done, but when you feel that way, too. It's that thing where you get into the zone and aren't going to leave for any reason and HEY that person just bugged me and now I'm pissed. But then you get back in fairly easily because your work environment is conducive to it. Productivity is just as influenced by your personal work space as your own work ethics.

Actually, no. I take that back. The space can be MORE important than the ethic.

Here's my thing: if my work area is setup to make working easy, enjoyable, and etc., then I'm going to kick more ass because my workspace is going to help me do that MORE than a space that's not.

I could get into the individual workspaces I have, but I'm all ready working on that post.


This area is one that a lot of project managers (especially the newbies) tend to forget about.

Think about something for a second. You've been enlisted to orchestrate something, and that something more than likely involves a group of people, sometimes an entire company. Your work means JACK if you don't do something to let people know what's going on. This can be as simple as an IM, a Twitter Post, and update to your CRM and/or Issue/Project Tracker, or some other form of announcement. But there's one thing that every milestone should have. I'm going to give this point it's own line, because I feel that it's that important.

An Email.

Everything that gets finished, from the small to the large, should have an email with some info about it, and that email should be sent within 24 hours of completion, ideally 4 hours, tho.

Why an email? Email acts as a great tracking system in itself. It's independent of many of the other solutions out there and can act as the great "OH BTW THIS GOT DONE AT THIS TIME THX" tool, which is extremely useful for CYA, or Covering Your Ass. Covering your ass is what you do when you communicate. This communication thing should also be done if there are problems or changes that could possibly pose any potention issue unde specific circumstances when the moon is in this phase on this day of the month but only if it's a Wednesday. This gives you the opportunity to make it known that you did what you could and that you made them aware that something might be POSSIBLY REMOTELY POSSIBLE.

Wait, that's it?

All in all, remember that project managers are of an interesting breed. We have this natural ability to wear multiple hats, sometimes wearing all of those hats at the same time. If you are just getting into project management and don't really understand what the rest of the company is about, you need to spend time learning that BEFORE doing ANYTHING ELSE. I say that because, especially in circumstances like mine, you'll hold up projects and make things take longer than they should. Plus, it'll help you think of ways to solve problems quickly and with as little effort as possible. Hell, your new insight might even help people to find a new process to manage things, saving everybody time.

Leave comments to share your tips and tricks. Even if you're not a project manager, feel free to leave a comment talking about your experiences with us. What you like, what you don't, etc.

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