Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Projects, project management and careers – 16: coordinated administration and management of suites of projects, and project-oriented businesses

Posted in career development, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on October 7, 2012

This is my sixteenth installment in a series on projects and project management as a career path (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 250-264 for Parts 1-15.) And so far I have focused on the issues and practices of working on and managing single projects. I turn here to consider projects and project management as a career choice for people working at businesses that carry out multiple projects as a matter of course, and the roles of senior project manager serving as project administrator.

In this business setting, every individual project is going to have its own hands-on project manager, as discussed in previous series installments, and they will hold ownership and responsibility over their particular project. But in most cases these managers will all report to a more senior manager with project administration authority and experience. And these senior managers and administrators will be responsible for coordinating the working and completion of suites of projects. My goal in this posting is to at least briefly outline what that means and what project administration at this level entails. And I begin by noting an important point of difference:

• When a manager is responsible for a single project they carry responsibility for promoting and even championing that project and for arguing the case that it should be carried through upon with access to all necessary resources, and as a top business priority.
• A project administrator, responsible for entire suites of projects cannot afford to play favorites; their responsibility is to prioritize all of the projects they are responsible for, as to which has higher resource access priority, and which are more or less important to the business, and both in general and at any given time.

In this type of system, project managers with their single projects report to project administrators with their suites of projects. And they report to more senior managers who for the most part have more operational backgrounds, and to the business’ senior administration.

The overall role of the project administrator is to select, approve and administratively oversee projects with a goal of making sure that all of the overall project work that they are responsible for, meshes with and supports overall business goals and strategy, and as cost-effectively as possible.

• As experienced project managers in their own right, administrators work with the project managers who report to them, to help them plan out their specific projects to make them more doable and with costs and resource access and business needs taken into account, and in both designing and planning these projects and in marketing them in-house for higher level approval.
• The project administrator runs interference for the project managers who report to them when they need more senior level support to obtain and retain access to funding and other resources.
• The project administrator also and on an ongoing basis helps resolve conflicts and potential conflicts between projects and their managers within their project suites. This very often includes finding ways to equitably share access to bottleneck resources, specialized-skilled personnel included who may find themselves shifting between projects for specific sets of tasks that recur with frequency.

To take this out of the abstract, consider a website development company that works with client businesses to plan out and build interactive, Web 2.0 oriented websites that would work effectively for them and help them meet their online needs. And this same business continues on working with clients who seek longer term site maintenance support for helping to resolve problems if and when they arise and for routine technical work, and it also provides periodic updates as new work initiatives on already existing sites. And for purposes of this discussion, I posit that each new website development initiative as carried out for a client is deemed a separate project. So if a business needs two separate web sites, they would be planned and built as two separate projects. Maintenance work for a completed web site is deemed a separate if perhaps ongoing project and would be billed accordingly with this starting at earliest after signoff that the website has been completed and after it has been turned over, live to the internet, to the client. Further update-oriented work that would fall outside of the scope of the original web site building project and that would not simply qualify as ongoing maintenance work would be negotiated as a separate and separately billable project and according to agreed-upon terms as to what planned work would be included. And work that was added in for any of these, outside of the scope of a project as agreed to would become a separate billable project unless mutually agreed to as fitting into an already existing project. And this website development company: call it TharkanNet, generally runs up to five full-scale website development projects at once, with their five development teams also providing maintenance and update support for their larger clients, and with a sixth separate team managing smaller client maintenance and small-scale update work.

TharkanNet has a small but busy database programming group that is rotated through all of these teams on an as-needed basis, and with the project administrator negotiating with these team’s project managers to make sure that they all have access to this group under terms that would work for them. And when necessary, the administrator would also meet with one of their project managers and their client to help make sure that any resource scheduling and prioritization is acceptable for them too and that the clients who ultimately pay all of the bills feel they are being listened to and that their needs are being met.

• So project managers manage projects and project administrators help to make that possible and with minimal complications or delays, and across suites of projects and for all of the teams and managers who work on them.

I am going to continue this discussion and tie it more fully into this series as a whole in my next series installment, where I will delve into building a career in projects and project work. I began writing about that in this blog with Part 2: projects and career paths and will reconsider this important topic in the light of subsequent series discussion. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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