Interview with our PM Drazena Boskovic: Learn the key elements of project management and find practical tips on managing a project
Project management can often be an overlooked role in the IT world, as people tend to gravitate towards more technical positions, despite how crucial it is to deploy and manage successful projects. Still, everyone who has ever worked with one of them will surely tell you how valuable and irreplaceable they are.
November 4th is recognized as the International Project Management day, and it makes a great opportunity to finally give them the recognition they deserve.
To do so, we’ll start this article by highlighting the core values of every successful project manager, then share some unique insights and tips from our very own PM – Drazena Boskovic.
What exactly do project managers do?
A better question would be: what don’t they do? Project managers are involved in so many aspects of the project from beginning to end that their exact role is often fluid and difficult to define.
They are responsible for planning and keeping track of the budget and resources and have to be great leaders and big-picture thinkers. They oversee projects in their multiple stages and are generally responsible for:
- Estimating the size, duration, and budget of the project
- Creating a schedule and sticking to it
- Managing the resources
- Communicating with everyone involved in the project, from developers to stakeholders
- Managing and motivating the team
- Documenting and reporting the progress of the project
Ultimately, their role is to bring the projects to a successful conclusion. However, the methods they use to do it can often vary from company to company, person to person, or even project to project. That has led to many different methodologies and approaches to project management, but the most common ones in our industry are Agile and Waterfall.
Being a project manager means having fast-paced and dynamic days, and it requires having the flexibility and quick thinking to adapt to any issues that may arise during each day. The skillset of a PM is incredibly broad, and it is often underappreciated.
What are the skills of a project manager?
The project manager is a position that isn’t necessarily dependent on the person’s educational background. Instead, it hinges more on experience, creativity in problem-solving, and people skills. Still, some characteristics are found in most good PMs, such as:
- Leadership: The PM is in charge of delivering the project on time, and within budget, so it is their responsibility to lead the team towards achieving the set goals. Being a strong leader requires a good balance between authority and approachability, and that’s why it ties in so well with the following characteristic.
- Communication: Good communication is key to the success of any business, regardless of your industry or position. That is especially true when it comes to project managers, who often have to be the lynchpin between the development team and the client. Their job is to make absolutely sure that everything is being communicated clearly and regularly.
- Organization: Organizational skills are essential in the overall running of the project. From planning and budgeting to handling human resources and time, a great PM will be able to put all the pieces in their right places to ensure everything runs smoothly.
- Critical thinking: The ability to analyze the situation on the fly and evaluate things as they come is a great way of predicting possible issues and preventing them before they even happen.
How important are project managers?
Short answer: very! The long answer: in modern-day business, and especially in the IT sector, many tasks and projects are being worked on simultaneously, and it can get increasingly challenging to stay on top of all of them.
Therefore, we have witnessed such a rise in the importance of project management. The demand for excellent PMs is skyrocketing in almost every industry, especially in software development. Developing an app, for example, requires so many moving parts and so many simultaneous tasks to be in sync, and a good project manager can make sure that the project runs as smoothly as possible and that all deadlines are met.
We at QSD are big believers in the value of project management and are very proud of our PMs, Drazena and Nezir. We don’t know where we would be without them! That’s why we caught up with our Project Manager and Scrum Master, Drazena Boskovic, to talk about the significance and vital meaning of quality project management in the development process at QSD. Here’s a conversation with Drazena on her managing experience and some pretty helpful tips you can apply to your own business:
1. What do you think is essential in project management?
Besides having technical project management skills essential for every PM role today, I believe that having a great team and being respectful, honest, and fair helps every PM set realistic expectations, diminish risk, advance positive results, increase trust and determine long-term project success. Knowing the team’s capabilities and having all this synthesized helps the project manager protect the team from burnout, their workflow from getting stuck, and their project from unavoidable and expensive delays.
2. What is your ideal project?
There is no ideal project, just an ideal team. When you have a group of people with different expertise working daily toward a common goal, you are capable of handling every project, no matter its complexity. Of course, it would be ideal to just receive projects with clear objectives, reasonable timeframes, clearly articulated goals, detailed schedules, concise, complete, and unambiguous business, and technical requirements, etc., but, unfortunately, that is not the reality. This is why I put all my effort and hope into the project team. We are all happy if we work on a project that challenges our capabilities on a daily basis.
3. What project management methods do you use?
Although it sometimes may be tricky to choose the right methodology, having the right one means having a set of blueprints for the planned project. The methodology is like a roadmap providing teams with a set of instructions and processes to deliver successful projects. In QSD software development, we prefer agile, but we do not exclude other methodologies. That is mostly because all our clients are unique, and we adjust methodology in accordance with their requirements and project objectives.
4. What is your favorite project management software?
There are a lot of great PM tools and software on the market, and it would be difficult to name just one. I guess my choice depends on the project complexity. I usually choose the one that will help the project team work more effectively, deliver value more efficiently and facilitate organization and communication throughout the project. Lately, I have preferred Atlassian options.
5. How do you prioritize tasks on a project?
Since we work in an agile environment, the priority list is always arranged with my team and client. We try to set a well-structured product backlog organized to be easily understood and arranged to meet strategic project needs. Prioritizing is our daily activity, so we usually evaluate a group of items, rank them in their order of importance or urgency, and put them in the product backlog.
6. How do you deal with scope creep?
Well, we work in agile, which is why we embrace the change. Change in agile leads to product improvement; we iterate – design, build, test, and learn something before repeating the cycle. In agile, all details are not determined at the beginning of the project, so change can be incorporated if communicated clearly to everyone working in the team. If the team receives requirements and decides to prioritize something into the Sprint, something else is deprioritized instead. This all requires a clear process to prevent haphazard and irrelevant changes.
7. What do you do when you exceed the budget or miss a deadline?
I try to avoid these situations as much as possible by thorough planning. Still, if something like this happens, I first analyze WHAT and WHY. Once I come to conclusions, I openly communicate the situation to the management and later to the stakeholders. Once I present the emerging situation, the impact, alternatives for the solution, recommendations from our company, I wait for further instructions from the stakeholder deciding committee. If I receive support, I rearrange the plan, reallocate the resources, inform the team and stakeholders and finally start implementing the change.
8. How do you handle team conflicts?
Conflict is nothing to shy away from. It is a very natural outcome that happens in any work environment, and often it can be the impetus to push the best ideas forward and enhance collaboration. What I try to do in these situations is to ‘put all the cards on the table’ and communicate to de-escalate the conflict and strengthen team cohesion. Empathy and active listening are the best alliances here because we show people how we see the situation from their point of view. Then, after investigating the situation and clarifying the source of conflict, we agree on the best solution and determine responsibilities for all people involved. Later, I monitor the process towards the final resolution.
9. How do you keep your team motivated?
When energy, knowledge, and skills collide within a team, we can accomplish anything we set our minds to. Of course, there is no easy answer here since we are all unique, but I honestly believe that we nurture team motivation by providing a pleasant work environment, opportunities to self-develop, encouraging team collaboration, avoiding micromanagement, and fostering self-organization by setting clear goals. That is, in my opinion, the only way to keep the team motivated and build trusting relationships with our team members.
As you can see, being a project manager is a challenging job, but it is also very rewarding. You are never facing those challenges alone, as you are always with your team, and nothing beats that feeling of satisfaction when you finally bring a project to a successful conclusion after working on it for months.
So, to all the project managers out there, especially those here at QSD, happy International Project Management Day!