Work in a company long enough and you’re bound to hear, “teamwork makes the dream work” at the water cooler, during coffee breaks, over lunches, and definitely in meetings. It’s an often-said cliche, but there is truth to it. For any project, big or small, its success depends on each member of the team doing their part. At the helm of this, the project manager. This individual is crucial to the success of the task and making sure the team and company meets (and exceeds) its deliverables, on time and within budget. To get a bigger picture of this role, we dove into the Project Management Industry Corner and spoke to Morgan Raad, who heads up a team at an international financial institution.
Tell us a bit about your background.
Post-graduation I worked for various companies, in various roles, in the financial services industry. For the last nine years, I have been working at a software company, specialising in the financial services industry.
How did you get into project management?
One of my previous roles was an account manager. Before we formalised our delivery process, we used to run various activities on board and take clients live. I enjoyed the aspect of engaging with a client and planning a delivery process.
Is there a distinction between project management across industries?
The principles of project management, irrespective of the industry, remain the same. On a high level these are:
- Defining deliverables
- Defining roles, expectations and objectives
- Identify and address any roadblocks
- Monitoring the project
- Managing activities to ensure deliverables are met
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Ensuring I have enough information to formulate a plan and tracking of deliverables against timelines.
What do you enjoy most about your job as a project manager?
For me it is twofold:
- Seeing the project being delivered and the client being able to use something that you, as part of a greater team delivered, is pretty awesome.
- Irrespective of the role, being part of the financial services industry and allowing people to be well advised about their financial wellbeing.
What exactly is project management?
It is a set of processes and tools to plan (based on time, costs and risks) and manage a deliverable.
What are the qualifications you need to become a project manager?
The internet offers a wide array of information and courses. Some range from just introductory courses, providing certification of attendance to more formal qualifications that could lead to a degree
What essential skills every project manager should have?
There are a number of essential skills required by a project manager. I’ll rank them in accordance with what I believe:
- Communication to get the message across.
- Organisation to help you stay focused.
- Time management to ensure that no part of a project takes longer than it should.
- Problem solving and being able to find ways to overcome challenges.
- Risk management for those times when projects do not go according to plan.
What qualities/traits do you need to succeed in this career?
- Being accountable for your decisions and actions.
- Being fully vested in success.
- Focused on stakeholder needs, delivering best performance, regardless of personal bias.
- Embraces change and allow for elements of uncertainty to be part of their project plans.
What are the roles and responsibilities of a project manager?
For me there are two main points, namely, to plan and to manage.
- Planning to realise the scope, keep to a time schedule within a restricted budget and finally be able to plan for any unforeseen risks.
- In addition to above a project manager needs to manage the project status, forecast performance, be able to communicate the plan and make adjustments where required.
What are the steps one should take to become a project manager?
Do not underestimate small beginnings. Start setting up a project for something small at work or at home and work your way up from there. Yes, even as simple as rearranging your room. What are the risks or blockers? What/who would you require to assist? Within what timeframe? How would you go about – first move out everything and gradually move everything back or even possibly phase it in?
As you finish one project your confidence will grow and you will start taking on larger, more complex projects
For a formal qualification, reach out to your local institute or attempt doing an online course. There are many platforms who offer various online courses, some which require interactions such as an exam and others that merely provide courses by way of introduction.
A day in the life of a project manager
What’s a typical day in the life of a project manager look like?
Really no typical day, but if I should summarise:
- The week normally starts with a review of my calendar for the week and if required a check in with various key team members.
- Have a clear agenda for the week. What do you want to have achieved by the end of the week and how will you go about working towards it? If there are any blockers or risks that you are aware of then how do you want to manage it?
- Prioritise activities in accordance with importance. Do not procrastinate.
What is the biggest misconception about project management/project managers?
Here are some of the sayings I come across frequently:
- Formal qualification required to plan and manage a project
- Project management is only for large projects
- Project managers only focus on the activities and risks and not on the people
- Project managers only sit and manage processes
What is the best tool/s for project management?
Most of the planning and management can be done using Google sheets (free online tool) or an Excel spreadsheet. I personally prefer building a Gantt chart (https://www.gantt.com/) in sheets, but you can easily define your risks, actions, issues and deliverables in a spreadsheet.
What are the three key drivers of project management?
The triple constraint, which is the fundamental relationship between the project scope, schedule and budget.
- Costs. These are the direct costs which can consist of variable costs or fixed costs and the indirect costs which normally are difficult to track on an individual level.
What should everyone know about project management?
I think in the simplest term it is the process of initiating, planning, executing and monitoring a project.
What are the top three things every project manager should know/remember?
- Communicate on every level
- Create a common goal
- Review success continuously
Why is project management so important to an organisation?
A project manager aims to break a project into manageable tasks and milestones.
What are the three most critical elements of effective project management?
- To define the scope
- Develop a plan within the time schedule
- Manage costs
How do you measure the success of a project?
There are a number of key elements against which the successful delivery of a project can be determined, namely:
- Project delivered within budgeted cost
- Project delivered within allocated time frame
- Client requirements met
- Business objectives achieved
- Client satisfaction achieved
Career path of a project manager
What makes a good project manager?
A project manager needs to have a good understanding of the market and the industry they operate in and understand the project that needs to be delivered.
What are the career paths one can look forward to?
Being able to understand the market and industry, combined to be able to deliver on items could allow a successful career path leading to senior project management, directorship or possibly vice president or executive.
What words of encouragement can you give someone looking to pursue a career in project management?
A career in project management can be exciting and bring fulfilment. There are multiple great career prospects.
Interested in pursuing a career in project management and not sure if you’ve got the skills and qualities to make it in the field? Take our Workplace Personality Assessment below to test your strengths and weaknesses. Our list of recommended courses will guide you through on your new career path towards becoming a project manager.