The Project Manager: the authority; the integrity; the banter.

Jack Simpson

Head of Marketing and Communications

Those who believe in telekinetics, raise my hand.

This blog entry aims to delve into the varied and complex world of the Project Manager (PM). Web Applications employs eight sprightly PMs and they each run their own teams, but it wasn’t until I sat down to talk with the PMs themselves that it became clear that their job entails much more than it says on the tin.

So, what exactly does the PM role entail? First and foremost, they are the main point of contact for our clients. Across the board, it seems that the first job of the PM when they get in in the morning is to check their emails, since this is an imperative communication tool to remain in tune with the ever-changing requirements of the client. (One particularly keen PM even admitted to checking their emails from the car park on their iPhone before entering the building… if that isn’t dedication, I don’t know what is!) Urgent issues are dealt with as soon as possible, while other daily tasks of the PMs include writing specifications and releasing work to UAT (user acceptance testing) as part of the testing code phase, travelling to meetings in order to represent the company and generally managing client expectations. They are certainly not short on tasks to occupy themselves with.

However, being a PM is not all about those fundamental client-related tasks – they also manage their own teams, who they utilise to better service their clients. Ensuring that their team is on the right track and up to speed is important to all of our PMs and one quipped that “keeping the morale of your team up is an incredibly important part of the job”. PMs tend to think of their team as a family, there to encourage and support one another.

Three words are regularly banded about the WebApps office, words that bring fear to the hearts of all non-PMs: The PM Meeting. Every Friday afternoon, the PMs congregate with our Chief Executive in the boardroom in the epic marathon that is this weekly occurrence. This is where issues are discussed, decisions are made, on-going problems are solved and polite debate occasionally ensues.

While all PMs feel obligated to profess their yearning for these meetings to be kept as short as possible, the evidence would suggest that, in reality, the PMs simply adore these meetings. It is their chance to share the burdens of their current tasks, solve on-going issues and collaborate on important decisions. The meeting also gives the PMs a chance to engage with our CEO in the most effective of all business tools: good old-fashioned face-to-face communication. While Web Apps UK may steam ahead with cutting-edge software, within an office where all forms of e-communication are both accessible and state-of-the-art, the company primarily concerns itself with actively interacting with the people who work for it (yes, even at 5.30pm on a Friday afternoon!)

So, aside from the epic marathons that are their Friday meetings, what else do the PMs love? The satisfaction of the job was a recurring theme during my talks with the PMs – the satisfaction of successfully assisting clients in their software needs and making a difference to the way their businesses function and also the satisfaction of bringing their team together.

To summarise this integral role, one PM suggested that being PM is rather like being a business analyst, sales manager, communications officer, account manager, testing expert and human resources manager all rolled into one, which I think successfully conveys the massive variety of the job and demonstrates why they are such valued and integral members of the Web Applications team.