It's a Project Manager's World Newsletter with Dr. James Brown
      October 2008 Full Moon Edition      

Are You Spending Too Much Time on Project Administration?

Project administration functions are different than project management functions. By administration functions I mean inputting the project parameters into the project management software, scheduling meetings, issuing minutes, compiling and expediting all the documentation and deliverables for the project, and providing the obligatory "courteous" follow-up on late tasks and deliverables.

I would never burden a great PM with administration functions.

When project managers have to manage projects and do administrative functions, it is a very tough task, because the amount of work involved in administrative functions can be overwhelming. The non-administrative project management functions are much more important. Thus, project managers who must do both tend to fall behind, or often they ignore or do not perform administrative functions, especially since the consequences of doing so are delayed.

Everyone doesn't have time to master sophisticated tools.

The project management software in use today is very sophisticated with a lot of capability. Project management software packages usually add new features, capabilities, or other changes every year or two, which makes the products even more challenging to use. Most project managers understand and can use less than a tenth of this capability-they learn (often painfully) just enough to get their project tasks into the system in order to meet some reporting requirement of the organization.

A two- or three-day class or online tutorial isn't enough.

Granted, the training will provide the basis for building proficiency in a project management software package, but that is true only if you use the tool frequently after the training is completed. The tool is a small part of good project management, and unfortunately, most organizations have their project managers operating on the wrong end of the learning curve. As such, their project managers never get proficient or effective at using the tool.

The tool can be a burden versus something that makes the job easier.

Realize that knowing the tool and performing all the necessary project management tasks is information/capability overload for the typical project manager. In fact, the skill set and natural ability to become proficient in the use of the project management software is different than the skill set and natural ability needed to be a great project manager, which is primarily people and relationship driven. It is a rare individual who is highly effective at both, because of personal preferences and time limitations. Time spent at the desktop with the tool is not time spent dealing with the myriad of project stakeholders

Splitting the two functions is a strategic decision.

When the functions are split, you have dedicated project administrators who work for and serve project managers. This means you can invest heavily in "tool" training for the administrators and make them experts on your project management software and methodology. Relieving your project managers of the administrative burdens allows them to work on more projects. Additionally, project administrators can serve more than one project manager.

A proper mix needs to be established.

The project administrator also frees the project manager from a lot of the time spent generating and updating status. For example, very often, seven project managers and three project administrators accomplish more and provide better customer service than ten project managers all doing the project management and the administrative functions.

Project administrators need to be capable and have a customer focus (the project managers are their customer). If your organization chooses not to have separate functions for project administration and project management, then consider making a subset of the project managers real experts on the project management software tools so they can serve as mentors to the other project managers. This means time and training needs to be allocated for this.

Obviously many project managers are performing both administration and project management functions. However, the organization should look strategically at what is the best way to maximize effectiveness. This means evaluating the option of splitting the functions.

Adapted from The Handbook of Program Management

Dr. James T. Brown PMP PE CSP


Copyright 2008 SEBA Solutions Inc.

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