The role of project manager is evolving, and the project managers of today have heightened responsibility when it comes to company profits and bottom lines. Those who can’t adapt will be left behind, but those who learn to evolve have the opportunity to become heroes within their organizations.
Project Managers’ Responsibilities in the Automation Era
In the past, the ideal project manager had a laser focus on project planning and delivery above all else. The majority of their time was dedicated to evaluating available resources, building out timelines, and managing critical paths. While these tasks remain within the purview of today’s project managers — and are critical to the success of any project — the proliferation of professional services automation (PSA) technology means that project managers also have many more responsibilities to shoulder.
As automation technology takes on some of the traditional project management tasks, companies are looking at how their project managers can deliver more. Project managers are expected not only to oversee project planning and delivery, but also to do so with overall profitability and the company’s bottom line in mind.
The general thought is that thanks to advanced PSA technology, these additional profitability concerns should be an easy undertaking for project managers. However, this is rarely the case — often because PSA technology does not give project managers what they need.
For example, some PSA tools do not match specific hours worked to specific deliverables — the key driver behind profitability. As a result, project managers may not understand the reality of how their projects operate. Project managers may have erroneous beliefs about how profitable their projects really are.
The Profitability Myth
The “profitability myth” is a direct result of the shortcomings of PSA tools with respect to managing and tracking time.
Project managers rely on PSA tools to manage the resources and capital that go into servicing projects on time and within budget. They see dollars spent, and they see hours tallied and allocated, but they don’t see specific time matched to specific deliverables. This all seems to work fine until time goes missing or gets misallocated — and then project managers must scramble to understand what happened.
PSA software can spit out final numbers, but it fails to account for underreported time, unbalanced skill sets among team members, other projects competing for time and attention, or the unsung heroes who work late nights off the clock to meet deadlines. As a result, a project that initially looks profitable may not really be so. The profitability myth prevents even the best managers from recognizing these situations as they arise.
Tying Time to Outcomes
Most projects are complex, multifaceted undertakings. They rarely follow the linear paths we want them to. The project managers of today deserve solutions that can account for both the minute details and the big picture.
Where PSA falls short, companies need a complete business operations offering to help managers see where time is being spent wisely and where it’s being wasted. To keep their eye on profitability, project managers must be able to access easily the information that helps them understand:
- which combinations of staff are most efficient;
- which projects are showing symptoms of scope creep in real time; and
- the adjustments necessary to return a project to profitability.
To control deliverables in a way that feeds into a company’s bottom line, project managers must utilize solutions that tie time directly to outcomes. Importantly, these solutions must contextualize the time spent and outcomes produced. When project managers gain visibility into their time operations, they can make necessary adjustments in real time, turning the myth of profitability into a reality.
When time spent is tied to outcomes, project managers can be heroes.
Raj Narayanaswamy is CEO of Replicon.