Balanced Workloads and Better Efficiency: How to Turn Your Project Managers into Little Yodas We know when you think “Star Wars” the first thing that pops up in your mind is project management in subscription IT and Professional Services. It’s exactly what George Lucas intended. There’s a dark side of the force awakening. That dark side is overworked Project Managers, who never have the time to fulfil their true destiny. That’s why we wrote this article – to help COOs navigate the overworked project manager asteroid field. Don’t worry if you’re not a big Star Wars fan – we can’t all be perfect. There are loads of tips in here that will help you and your Project Managers. The Empire has already struck back: What the IT and Professional Services landscape is like You’re up against a lot. Your competition is as vast as the universe and as varied as that weird bar in Mos Eisley where Han totally shot first. Rapidly evolving technologies, innovative service models, and rising customer expectations make this industry hard. You’re expected to excel while grappling with these daily battles. You’re facing more traps than Admiral Ackbar As a COO, you’re no stranger to stress. You constantly manage teams, put out fires, juggle responsibilities, strategize, and go back to stakeholders to explain what’s going on. Any of these impacts sound familiar? Personal: Stress and burnout crush health and well-being. Your work hours are so long you’ve forgotten what your family and friends look like. You long for fun and a full life as wistfully as stormtroopers long for a good aim. Team: Stress impacts your team. When you’re pulling overtime to fix things, everyone else is too. Mistakes have to be corrected. Deadlines get tight. So does money. Can anyone stay happy or productive in those circumstances? The Org: If Han and Chewie are injured and suffering, the Millennium Falcon isn’t gonna get fixed when it needs it, right? If you and your team can’t keep up, there’s no way you’ll be able to run the business in a profitable and future-facing way. Right. So, you’re up against it the Empire. And maybe you’re losing. This is where we need to have a look at your right-hand fighters – your Project Managers. Your Project Managers: Yodas, or Sand People? A good Project Manager working in optimal conditions is a little Yoda. In control. Calm. Intuitive. They have the right mindset and excellent judgement. But most IT Services Project Managers are in situations so dire that they’re Sand People. They’re stressed and shouty. They’re impulsive and unreasonable. How does this happen? Unrealistic expectations – When dates or performance targets are unrealistic, you’re setting yourself and them up for failure from the beginning. Huge amounts of admin – Chances are your PM is tied up by admin that should be done by an army of support workers. Scores of spreadsheets (ugh). Resource allocation. Progress reports and meetings. Continual time and material billing. It never ends. Fixed Price Projects – There isn’t a PM in the world who doesn’t want to run for the hills when they hear the project is fixed price. It puts incredible stress on a PM to accurately estimate everything for the agreed budget. They must figure out how to meet the demands of underestimated work without additional budget. The PM absorbs the workload themselves to make budget. Fixed price projects also risk quality to deliver within the price. They also don’t take into account unforseen circumstances that inevitably pop up. Inadequate resources – The right tools are as rare as manners for Sand People. But how can they get anything done without modern, reliable tools to do it? Poor communication and isolation – Silos in information lead to miscommunication and mistakes. An isolated Project Manager can’t perform like someone plugged into the system. Office politics and a lack of training – Toxic environments breed toxic employees. And Project Managers lack the training they need for a specific job, they have to wing it. Squashed potential – They never get a chance to really show off their gifts and talents because they’re so busy putting out fires and struggling to keep up. When they’re unsupported in a really harsh landscape, this impacts you and your business. No doubt you’ve experienced these effects before: Less efficiency: It’s impossible for an overworked person to perform at their best. They’ll be slower and work longer hours, causing more mess. Who cleans it up? Who is ultimately responsible? You. More mistakes: Fatigue and stress cause mistakes. Mistakes are expensive. Mistakes make stakeholders nervous at best or furious at worst. No creativity: PMs need the time and headspace to look at things from a different point of view, research, experiment, and think outside the box. But without the time to do it, your company suffers because solutions will never be the extraordinary ones that set your company apart. Unhappy clients: Churn is a killer. One big client lost can make it impossible to recover. You simply cannot afford to have clients who are let down over and over. These aren’t usually the PM’s fault. They’re only human and they usually lack the resources they need to be the little Yodas who keep your operations running smoothly. So how can you streamline your Project Managers’ workloads and boost their efficiency? Return of the Little Guy: steps to bring back the Yodas and use the Force You can turn things around and transform your Project Managers into the Yodas that bring balance back to your ops (and money back to your balance!) Here are six actionable steps you can take to help them and yourself: Automation: You wouldn’t hire a projectionist or translator when you’ve got R2D2 and C-3PO around. Let the “robots” do the grunt work. From reporting to task assignment and recurring services engagements, automation handles all the time and soul-sapping repetitive tasks. Errors are down, efficiency is way up. Your PM won’t have to worry about spreadsheets and time and material billing (no, really!). It will be automated for them in real time and this information will be fed to whichever internal and external teams need it. That means your PM will be free to use their real talents for those strategic, value-adding activities that make the project undeniably brilliant. Delegation: Yoda didn’t do everything alone- he knew how to delegate. Your PM needs enough support to do the tasks that are handed to them. When a Project Manager can delegate wisely, the workload is balanced. Trust is built. The team is empowered. Prioritizing: When you help your Project Managers prioritize tasks based on urgency, you won’t have to worry about crucial tasks getting neglected. Everyone involved makes smarter decisions because they aren’t overwhelmed. They’re focusing energy where it’s needed most. Open Communication – Those silos can be knocked down for you. Information that is freely shared, combined with regular check-ins (with both your team and your customers) help spot issues before they snowball. And – bonus – members feel heard and valued. Breaks: Project Managers should take regular breaks to recharge and refresh, especially on their days off. If you can’t give them true days off, you haven’t hired enough people for the job. You might balk at that, but overworking employees always comes back to bite you. When Project Managers feel you value them and their well-being, they’re less likely to burnout. They’ll be more productive. And while we’re on the subject, the same goes for you. We get it- as a COO, it’s hard to switch off. You’ve got the weight of the world on your shoulders. But you can’t deliver if you’re battered and bruised. Like any starship in the fleet, you need maintenance, too. Training: Give your Project Managers the skills they need to manage their workloads and even- dare we say it – excel. This includes time management, people management, stress management, and technical skills. They’ll be more efficient and confident. Strong project governance: This provides your PM with a structured environment where they know exactly where to turn to for approval and help with issues when needed. The clarity will cut down on miscommunication and speed-up decision making. And the regularly timed monitoring and reporting helps your Project Manager stay on top of project progress and note if something is off-track. Alternatives to fixed-price project contracts: You have choices including agile contracts (that naturally allow for adjustment to the budget along the way), cost-plus contracts (which put an additional fee on top that can cover unexpected costs), and time and materials/resources contracts (which base the budget on how much time and how many resources are devoted to the project). These alternatives will make life a lot easier for your PM and you. Conclusion Remember, a Jedi Knight even as elderly and cute eared as Yoda is only as good as the Force within them. As a COO, the power to shape them is in your hands. When you take steps to make sure your Project Managers aren’t just surviving, but thriving, you’ll be amazed at what they can accomplish. Let them be the Yodas that they’re meant to be, and you’ll win not just the battle, but the war. Geive your teams the best tools and get the best results. Boost growth with Bluefort’s cutting-edge sales automation solutions. 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