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Top Project Management Myths: Part 1

by Susan Fennema

I have made a career in project management. I have so much passion for helping companies realize the sense of calm, efficiency and business growth that a project manager can bring. But over the years I have certainly seen some misconceptions and myths out there about what project managers do and don’t do, or the value they do or don’t bring. So today I am going to tackle the most common project management myths out there with this new project management myths series. Many of these myths come from not understanding what a project manager actually does, and the intangible value they bring. Alright, let’s go bust some myths!

Project Management Myth #1:  “I have a  project management tool… I don’t need a project manager”

Project management and collaboration tools like Teamwork are great. More than great. My team and I live by Teamwork. Tools are imperative for every single project so you can assign tasks to a responsible party with due dates, build schedules, track work, communicate, and pull up task lists by each individual. But are they a replacement for a project manager? Going to bust this myth… no!

Have you ever heard the saying “a fool with a tool is still a fool?” You can have the best tools out there that money can buy, but if you don’t understand how to manage a project, it will be worthless. A tool alone will not get the project done. Many project management tools also require maintenance and upkeep to continue to work as they are designed to, regardless of how efficient or talented your team is. Someone’s gotta run that too.

Having both the technology AND the project manager is the best combination. Here’s why. Tools help increase the effectiveness and efficiency of project managers. They help them do their job faster by aggregating data, accelerating workflows, generating reports, spotting trends, and automating tasks. But tools have limitations. They cannot influence stakeholders or manage relationships or negotiate. They can’t tell the client why the project delivery may be delayed or exceed costs. These business needs require human communication with a side of empathy. I mentioned the “intangible value” above. Communication is one of the biggest intangibles that project managers bring.

So all project managers out there, rest assured, you will not be replaced by robots. Tools will not solve all of our problems… not yet anyway. The success and quality of a project are dependent on the skills of the project manager. One of the things my team does is make sure your team operates with the right technology, like Teamwork, and has properly implemented it into your daily operations.

Project Management Myth #2: “Project management is not billable” 

I get very excited about this particular topic. As someone who has built her entire career on project management, it kills me when I hear that project management is overhead and cannot be billed back to the client. If you are not billing your client for money, you’re losing out on revenue. Even if you don’t have a specific person who’s dedicated as the project management resource, it’s safe to say that there’s probably someone’s who’s doing the work anyway.

Think of a project manager like a general contractor of a construction project. No one would disagree about including a general contractor in a cost estimate, right? Because who’s going to build their new house without a general contractor overseeing the workers? No one… unless you want a house that never gets built. So in this analogy, your project manager is your contractor and your business project is your house. You need a dedicated person to help oversee the project vision and manage it to completion, just like a general contractor would. I think you are beginning to see the value, and hence the need to bill for it.

Back in my ad agency days in Chicago, I would have my project management teams include project management fees in every single project estimate, no matter how big or small the project. Even for a quick 5-hour job as simple as resizing a print ad, I would make sure my account team always included at least an hour for project management time. Because someone still needs to give direction to the art director, and get specs from production to give to the art director, and get the ad shipped off to the publication, and give an update on all of this to the client. Without that 1 hour, I can guarantee you that the project would not have the same result.

And the great part is that the clients paid for it because we educated clients upfront on our process and what type of fees were typically included in a project. Transparency and education for your clients on your process and how you bill projects is crucial. Even 30 minutes of billable time a week can be helpful to keep projects in scope and clients happy. At the very least, it can help a developer with understanding what has been agreed to, what will cause a delay, and what tasks will increase costs. This 30 minutes will help your teams stick to the agreed-upon scope.

If you’re having trouble selling in the need for project management to your clients, there are a few ways to combat it. Ask your client if they plan on running the status meetings. Or if they plan on creating timelines and reports for the team. Putting the tasks back on them will soon show them the value of what your project manager can provide.

So those were my biggest project management myths about what project managers are NOT. But I also have some project management truths. Project managers ARE:

  • Cat herders
  • Cheerleaders
  • Problem solvers
  • Mini-CEOs
  • Diplomats
  • Alarm clocks
  • Superheros

So, thank your Project Managers. They do a lot.

If you need help selling in project management services to your clients or internal stakeholders, we can help you communicate the value of adding a project manager to your team (as well as show you what LACK of services can do). We have very experienced project managers who can take care of it for you, so you can do what you love to do most in your business. Additionally, you can check out our project management services for a better idea of how many hours you might need to budget.

If it’s budget that is keeping you from adding a full-time project manager to your team, let’s also talk. My team and I serve as the virtual project manager for many clients, starting at just 5 hours a week. This is a great way to ease into learning what project management can do for you.

See our Management Courses for some more great resources!

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