A Day in The Life as a Project Manager at Clearbridge Mobile
It takes both experience and exceptional foresight to plan and deliver perfect process execution. At Clearbridge Mobile, our Project Managers value transparency and prioritize collaboration in every mobile app development project that comes across their desk.
The first post of this series is a behind-the-scenes look at the entire app development process; this blog shares exclusive insight from the Project Managers at Clearbridge steering the development ship.
Who are Project Managers?
A Project Manager ensures all activities, requirements, and the information is communicated correctly and delivered on time. They help you build your product vision and execute that vision by focusing on providing the most value. A Project Manager is responsible for analyzing project scope, resources, current conditions, and prioritizing deliverables.
Project Managers approach your project goals as their own. They can pivot between the “big picture” and the little details of a development project, knowing when and how to focus on each.
App development is not one-size-fits-all, and each project is inherently different. Successful Project Managers can adapt their strategies to fit the context and conditions of each project. At Clearbridge, our Project Managers are continually improving their own and their team’s approaches to development through lessons-learned and stand up reviews at each stage of a project.
I sat down with Praveen Kumar and Mike Iseman – two of Clearbridge Mobile’s Project Managers – to learn more about the work they do. After a few jokes and high-spirited banter, I jumped in with my questions.
Let’s get to it.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Praveen: Well, my role as an Internal Project Manager is a little different from the position of a Technical Project Manager, like Mike. My day usually consists of project planning with the VP of Technology and resource planning with Director of Engineering, and Director of Operations, and setting up the processes operating in the background of the overall project management processes. I am the initial point of contact with the client, in the sense that I set up and schedule project kickoff meetings, assign resources to the project, conduct internal kick-off meeting with the team, and like the Technical Project Managers, I maintain a concerns list to document necessary risks. My concerns list covers anything that may negatively impact a project or affect resources. I am always monitoring my concerns list for anything that may be business critical, and I take appropriate action if and when required. Open and transparent communication is a huge priority for me; hence, I try my best to convey any communication needed throughout the project management office as quickly as possible.
Mike: Everyday, I have a stand-up meeting with my team. These meetings are 15 minutes long and very high-level. I ask my team a few questions:
- What did you do yesterday?
- What are you committing to today?
- Did you have any impediments?
I am responsible for the commitments and performance of every member of my team. I have to know what everyone is doing on a particular day or a specific time. I field questions from my team, sometimes about the project workflow or the intended functionality of the product, and I make sure everyone is on track towards completing prioritized deliverables. If there’s something I can’t answer the architect and the designer are both in attendance to answer to ensure the team isn’t wasting valuable time looking for answers.
I am also responsible for product discovery sessions: planning discoveries, performing discoveries, recording and reviewing the outcomes from previous discoveries, and keeping in touch with the client about project progress.
My day also involves maintaining a concerns list. My list can include everything from allocated hours, team performance, unclear requirements, scheduling concerns to client concerns.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
Mike: It depends on the project. I would say the hardest part of my job is the unexpected challenges that arise during development or implementation that require time and effort from every member of the team.
Praveen: Blind spots.
Mike: Exactly, and blind spots are not necessarily technical, an example could be a feature requirement that lacks focus.
Praveen: Collaboration is so important for anticipating blind spots. A good Project Manager should empower their team, and give them a framework in which they can thrive and deliver a successful product. You need to involve the team in the product’s higher purpose, and this way they can better adapt to change.
What’s your favourite part of your job?
Mike: That’s easy – the people I get to work with.
Praveen: The people at Clearbridge appreciate transparency and communication. Feedback is always welcome here, and we value open discussion about everything: improvements, challenges, and growth.
What kind of person makes a great Project Manager?
Mike: Extroverted. As a Project Manager, you’re always working with people. If you’re not an extroverted, people-person, you run the risk of burning out very quickly. You have to be organized and resilient with a high tolerance for stress.
Praveen: When you write this, put communication in big, bold letters. To succeed as a Project Manager, you need to be an expert communicator. You need to be reliable, focused and you have to be able to switch on a dime.
How do you keep your team motivated?
Mike: I always keep things light and fun. I try to inject a little whimsy into our day-to-day routine. I always congratulate team members when they’re hustling and winning, and when setbacks arise, we fix it as a team. I have to make sure everybody knows that – nobody falls behind alone. Oh, and donuts always help.
How do you keep yourself organized?
Mike: I wasn’t organized by nature when I first started working as a Project Manager, but I learned to be. It may seem obvious, but I make lists, and I always write everything down.
Praveen: You have to make sure that all the little details throughout the day align with the big picture. At the end of my day, I always make a list of what I plan to commit to tomorrow.
Mike: I have a daily reminder that goes off at 8:30 a.m. on my to-do list, and that sets the tone for my whole day.
How formal are the planning stages of a project?
Mike: Absolutely granular.
Praveen: The planning process needs to be incredibly detailed because it influences the project workflow, and the workflow represents the MVP. At Clearbridge, we hold collaborative sessions with the client where we determine what they need in their product. During the entire process, we’re very transparent about measuring expectations for a fast time-to-market.
How do you manage the scope of a project?
Mike: We keep the MVPs lean. We dissect the entire project into phases so we can deliver often. When it comes to managing the scope of a project, we prioritize which features in the client’s wish-list are critical. We always ask the client: you want these features, but are they necessary for the product to be marketable?
Praveen: We organize features into a MOSCOW matrix: must have, should have, could have, and won’t have. As the project progresses, often we find that more features come into the light, and if we can’t scale back the features in the should have or could have categories, it could blow up the MVP. If the scope fluctuates like this, it affects the timeline, the cost, and even the ability to achieve business objectives. Hence prioritization of the requirements is very crucial and important for any project.
Mike: Managing project scope requires transparency with the client. One thing I find myself saying about adding to project scope is we’re happy to accommodate, but let’s get the first requirements built and find out where these additional features fall in the MVP, whether that’s phase one or phase two.
How do you plan for, or manage risk?
Praveen: Again, managing risk requires transparency. During the discovery phase of a project, we are very upfront about the potential risks of a project.
Mike: This is why we use concerns lists. Staying organized allows us to anticipate potential problems before they happen.
Project Management is distinctive in the sense that it is not a conventional system; every project is different and requires its own unique set of operations to accomplish the overall goal. When it comes to app development, the project must be expertly managed to deliver on-time, on-budget, and to meet product requirements. At Clearbridge, the Project Managers understand the importance of transparency and collaboration and the roles they play in delivering successful mobile applications.
If you’re interested in getting started with mobile app development, contact Clearbridge Mobile today.