Project management, all grown up
One might assume they already know everything a project manager in a professional services organization is responsible for — namely, managing a project. A more generous definition may also include meeting various deadlines and delivering the completed project to those who requested it. At one time, this simple definition covered all the bases; now it’s done some serious growing up.
Recent changes in the professional services landscape have introduced a growing disparity between what was once generally accepted as project management and what professional services firms expect from project managers today. Only recently has the role of a project manager expanded beyond its traditional definition, moving away from the solely internal functions that made it simpler to handle stakeholder expectations. This new normal is slowly evolving into a project manager with more solid client-facing experience; someone who has previously worked with a limited budget and delivered a finished project to a paying customer. This new equally internal and external project manager has a broader background and skill set, moving toward a more proactive leadership style when guiding team members. In other words, the role has matured.
But that’s not the only change — the mass emergence of available data has compelled today’s professional services firms to rely on them for fundamental decision-making. With substantiated evidence available on what works and what doesn’t, it’s no surprise that project managers are increasingly expected to concern themselves with numbers. Owning full visibility into every aspect of their projects means that project managers now regularly observe multiple key metrics, including budgets, estimates, costs, margins, profitability, billings and more. Now a project manager can consider, "Does this task ultimately encourage profitability, or does it hinder it? How does this estimate compare to the actual cost?" Using these metrics, managers can effectively assess and control the status, productivity, work quality and overall success of a project.
Metrics don’t materialize out of nothing. Project managers should also know the intricacies of how these metrics work and why they are defined the way they are. This adds yet another new complexity to the role — collaborating with other teams. While project managers do have direct control over some metrics, identifying others requires deferring to other departments. This wasn’t traditionally part of the process, but these working alliances keep everyone on the same page when it comes to incoming data and analytics. Organizations can now rely on one shared and consistent pool of metrics across all teams for a more standardized workflow. By joining forces with finance, operations and others, project managers can avoid setbacks such as going over budget or miscalculating project margins, and keep the process streamlined for each stage of handoff.
All grown up
Today, project managers must wear several hats — all of which bring them closer to the more external tasks of services delivery, such as managing client expectations, collaboration with finance and operations teams, observing multiple metrics, actively considering project profitability, resource utilization, and more. Gone are the days of single-minded focus on delivery — the complexity of the role has increased substantially, and project management has done some growing up. Services delivery is the new face of project management, and companies must embrace this to optimize their project success moving forward.