What's the difference between a project manager and a project lead? The term project manager is defined as “The person responsible for leading a project from its inception to execution. This includes planning, execution and managing the people, resources and scope of the project.” The term project lead is defined as “An information technology business term referring to a person in charge of an information systems project. A project leader uses project management software for keeping track of projects and generally has extensive experience as a programmer, systems analyst or other related informational field.” So, project manager is a specific role basically... while a project lead is more like a project team member acting in the role of project manager along with their main role on the project. For example, many small tech projects have a tech lead and maybe 1-2 other individuals and the tech lead will act also as the project lead.
What's the difference between a project manager and a business analyst? We've already looked at and discussed what a project manager is so let's just define “business analyst” here and discuss. The term business analyst is defined as “A business analyst (BA) is someone who analyzes an organization or business domain (real or hypothetical) and documents its business or processes or systems, assessing the business model or its integration with technology.” For me, the business analyst is the liaison between the project manager and delivery team on daily tasks as well as a key interface for and with the project customer. They sometimes will also act in the role of project lead if there is not specific project manager assigned.
What are lessons learned? Since we are on a roll with definitions to start these discussions, let's look at lessons learned. Lessons learned are defined as “are experiences distilled from a project that should be actively taken into account in future projects.” Usually, the planned practice is to conduct a lessons learned session near, at or after the solution rollout and discuss what went well and what didn't on the project so you can take the good and improve on the bad for the next initiative. They often don't happen because everyone is off to their next project and getting stakeholders back together for this discussion can be challenging. But also rewarding so make it happen if you can.
What are best practices? Best practices for project management can mean something different to every project manager and every organization. For me, it's good, logical steps and tasks that help you complete projects on time, on budget, to the customer's satisfaction and to stakeholders' satisfaction. That can cover a very wide range of actions and practices. If it works and it makes sense and it's fairly repeatable, then it should probably become part of your project management best practices. For me, it's usually things like good kickoff sessions, well planned meetings, well prepared for meetings, well executed meetings, excellent and efficient project communications, formal weekly project status meetings, weekly delivery team meetings, and project status reporting that makes good sense for the project and the customer's needs. What are your best practices?
Is cybersecurity really a project management concern? In 2018 and beyond? Yes. I firmly believe that risk planning for any project going forward should contain an element of cybersecurity awareness no matter the industry or project. I also firmly believe that if your organizations and projects regularly handle any sensitive data at all, you should have an internal digital security organization – even if it's just one person – and someone from that organization should automatically be part of every project team to some degree... if only to do nothing more than confirm that they are or aren't needed on the project.
Why do project managers cost so much on the project – they aren't really doing any work? Oh yes they are. But on the surface, I agree... it can appear that they aren't adding that much to the process. Apparent overhead is hard to pay for when the budget is tight. You don't have a mower but you don't want to pay for a lawn guy because you'll just “take care of it.” Yeah... I've been that guy. It doesn't happen if you're life is crazy busy and then very quickly you have an utter mess and you're paying someone over $1000 to clean up your messy lawn. Project managers are worth it and what they do in terms of communication, status reporting, meeting prep and facilitation and decision making on the project is worth it's weight in gold. Trust me.
Do we really need a project charter? When thinking “project charter” think statement of work (SOW). They are fairly similar. Neither are absolutely necessary, but having one or both in hand for the project manager as the project is gearing up to start can be extremely helpful. The project charter serves as sort of a placeholder planning tool for the project and maps out – at a high level – several key areas such as project description, what justifies the project, the project objectives, some high level requirements, some high level risks, a general budget, who the stakeholders are or likely will be, and key milestones for the project. And can include other things, but those are key areas most project charter templates cover. So that generally covers what you hope to get from the statement of work as well... not really much difference. Both will give the project manager and team a great deal of key information to build a draft schedule from and to use as a kickstart for the formal project kickoff session to begin the engagement with the client.
Do we really need a project scope statement? What a project scope statement really looks like is going to depend a lot on the type of project and the type of industry and organization the project is being executed for and in. It generally details details the project deliverables and describes the major objectives. The objectives should include measurable success criteria for the project. Is it needed? Yes. It is the baseline to what the project manager manages project scope against.
Why do project managers smell bad? They usually don't, but if you've been stuck in a war room with the rest of the team and the project customer team hammering through remaining issues for two weeks trying to get the tech solution live and you haven't showered in awhile then yes... your project manager – and you - probably smell bad.
Summary / call for input
I hope at least one item on this list has helped someone. There are always those things that come up and we think... “do I really need that?” or “I've heard that a lot but what is it really?” So this is at least a start. Have some of your own thoughts or items to add? Please share...