Time management, client approach and modern communication in the tech world. A PM’s point of view

It has been over two years since we have accepted online meetings as the new norm. Nevertheless, opting from face-to-face meetings to an online client and team communication seemed like a NO-GO until certain circumstances proved otherwise. Whether or not this has affected the internal and external relationship approach, the everyday time management, and last but not least what does it take to really move the needle as a recently-promoted Project Management Lead, Miro shares with us in the latest interview…

Can you describe a normal day for a Project Manager?

Usually, my day starts with going through my email inbox, checking software notifications, and any other channels used for internal and external communication within the teams and clients. Once I have identified what are the priority tasks and issues I can plan the action points for the day and distribute them based on how time-sensitive they are. By then, it’s already time to start with the morning daily updates for the projects I manage. Most of the time after them I get additional action points that I add to my previous list. I try to complete the critical ones before the next scheduled meeting, which sometimes can be a client workshop or just a member of my team who wants to discuss some problems or have questions related to projects they are assigned on. If I have to sum it up, the day goes by balancing out completing all of those tasks, updating documentation, assisting the team members, or executing any other admin task that pops up in the meantime.

In other words, it is controlled chaos between the software we use to communicate and manage the projects and constantly shifting between them and the URGENT issues that appear.

Are you fond of the “eat the frog” concept to execute the most difficult tasks in the morning, or do you plan each day accordingly?

I don’t think so. In my opinion, the most difficult task is not always the priority one. I aim to complete the most critical ones for the team, clients, or colleagues as well as take on quick “win” tasks. This usually unblocks me to focus on wrapping up documentation for the next project milestone, review the current Sprint progress, plan for the next Sprints or focus on any additional processes that can help the projects or teams further.

You were recently promoted to the position of Project Management Lead. What would you describe as most challenging in your job?

Interviews. I remember that during the first few interviews I felt very uncomfortable. I have never been on the other side of an interview since then. It is a completely different world with its own rules. It is challenging to find new people that can fit in the current team, share the same principles, and provide value to the company just by doing a few meetings or reviewing CVs. Being a PM lead also means you need to take care of your team members, by getting to know them better, making sure they have all the tools and comfort to be happy and enjoy their job. This doesn’t necessarily mean ordering a new chair or equipment, but rather listening to them and providing feedback, even if they already had the answer, but just wanted to run it by someone else (which is most of the time).

With everything changing nowadays people got used to online meetings whether they liked it or not. How does that affect traditional face-to-face client communication? Do you find it more difficult to do your job this way?

To be completely honest, now it is even easier to communicate with clients and schedule workshops on projects. Collaborating with clients on documents and prototypes is more streamlined due to the option to “share screen” and make decisions based on key elements on the go. It is even more convenient for taking notes as with most meeting tools you can video record the session, get a transcript of the meeting and screenshot. This saves time when you are in a prototyping phase of the project as you can easily follow up on any action points and distribute the information to everyone involved.

In your experience what do you think is the best approach for successful client relationship management? Do you rely more on soft skills and try to understand the client’s philosophy, or do you prefer to keep a more straightforward communication?

In my experience, in the beginning, I prefer to establish more official communication. As the projects and relationships between Flat Rock Technology and the clients grow, I have found that having one-liners or a few icebreakers before the start of the meeting here and there, if of course, it is suitable to the project, helps in the long run. Trying to understand the client’s business, what problems they want to solve with the project is crucial to its success and our project processes. The best-case scenario is achieving open communication, as it is key for the smooth project management process. In the end, our client’s priority is to find the best solution scalable to their business model. We, on the other hand, are here to help them achieve this. From a Project Manager's point of view having the needed motivation to achieve results and help the clients in the process will only benefit you and your team, as well as help you move forward and achieve your goals on a professional level.

This job, I assume, requires a lot of responsibility. What advice would you give to someone who wants to proceed with a career as a Project Manager?

Being a Project Manager, I cannot emphasize enough the need to accurately distribute your time on separate tasks and responsibilities. You should definitely pay attention to your time management, organize your client’s time and your team’s as it is key to successfully completing any project. Often times it is easy to get distracted in your job or personal life and waste your or everyone else’s time with fewer priority tasks. Other than that, I think having overall patience, a problem-solving attitude, and of course, if you are open to discussions you will find it a lot easier to work in a team and complete projects with external team members. Once you get the hang of this you can easily apply some of the Project Management pillars to your personal life. Also, a piece of personal advice: Be careful as completing tasks is addictive…

And last but not least, what do you wish you knew 5 years ago when you first started working as a Project Manager? Is there a skill or a lesson you wish you possessed back then?

Being a Project Manager is not always about being right. I always say that you should try to put your ego aside and listen to the problems your clients or team members are facing. After all, your Number 1 job is helping those problems get solved as I can say from personal experience that this will define you completing your job by at least 90%.

As a project manager having soft skills and identifying problems is key. However, you should always be open to feedback and remain flexible especially when it comes to different types of clients, team members, and projects you face during your career. There are no silly questions when it comes to workshops, client discussions, or team member meetings if you ask politely…

Or, as I like to say, listen carefully to everyone else and don’t try to reinvent the wheel.

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