A day in the life of a project manager

What does a typical day look like?

Sometime after 6.30 am!
Wake up, get out of bed, make the train in seconds flat.

8.30ish am
The day starts with a boost in the form of a double shot Americano. This is courtesy of Land Coffee located in Liverpool Science Park where we’re based.

8:45 am
I read my emails today, Oh, Boy!

The day starts by checking emails, and notifications in the main case management software. We use FogBugz and Trello to manage all client and internal projects. This time of a morning is a chance to check there are no screamingly urgent things to tackle and to clear the decks before things get properly busy.

9.00 am
Some of the software development team start to arrive. Typically, most of the team arrive between 9-10 am but I start planning the day in advance. It’s in preparation for internal catch-ups, client meetings and that kind of thing. We’re a team of 13, located in a modern open-plan office space in Liverpool Science Park, but I also work remotely from home one day per week. This really does helps the ever-delicate work-life balance. The washing won’t put itself out!

9.30 am
Planning meeting with the head of projects to review the previous week’s work and to make sure we have no immediate resource issues or blocks for the following week. It’s a nice time for a sanity check.

10.00 am
We have a weekly Skype call with some of our development team and Sport Business. Sport Business provides a global platform for sports data intelligence which includes unique news, analysis, data, consulting and events. The main goal is to review the previous week’s completed development work and what’s planned for the coming week. We’ve previously migrated them from Drupal to WordPress and launched the initial version of the site. We’re now super busy with multiple integrations and ongoing improvements they require.

We do also have daily stand-ups to highlight progress and daily blocks but weekly meetings are more effective spotting issues you may not have thought of or highlighting opportunities that will benefit the project. It’s also useful to make sure the scope hasn’t changed which can kill project timelines and budgets!

11.00 am
Tidy up the meeting notes and circulate to everyone who attended so we have a clear record of what was discussed and the next steps to take. I’ll usually follow on from the client meeting by double checking the team are happy and there is nothing we forgot to mention on the catch-up call. We do keep in regular contact with clients through various Skype chat channels which is another way to keep things running smoothly. We use Trello for the high-level project view and FogBugz for the day to day time recording and detailed conversations so I’ll make sure any relevant boards and cases are up to date then notify the team.

Finally, I’ll help the client with any user related support and write further information for the ever-expanding user guide. The purpose is to help them to use certain features or updates we’ve implemented. We’ve started to build out a central user documentation site that will eventually hold all of this content for each client but it’s not quite ready to release yet.

12.30 pm
I’m starting to write some early requirements for a Standfirst demo site we’re planning to build. The goal is to have a site ready where we can showcase a range of back-end features that are built specifically for digital publishers. Whether they are new or existing clients. We also intend to use the site for transferring knowledge amongst the team. We’re super excited about Standfirst and the growing number of customers using it.

1.00 pm – lunch!

2.00 pm
Prep for a demo site kick-off meeting with the developers who’ll be setting up and building out the front-end of the site. We often use document templates created in Google Docs which helps to get new projects started.

2.30 pm
Meeting with the team. We review the requirements and discuss timelines and deliverables for an alpha/beta version of the site. The back-end functionality that powers Standfirst has already been built. We now need to have a front-end that demonstrates some of the core features like the Tax Lister and Page Builder. Other smaller features will be built out in the next phase.

4.00 pm
Usually, I’ll use the afternoon to fit in some of the smaller client work which often comes under account management and support. It’s also a good time to start thinking about the next day and I’ll often identify key priorities which I’ll insert into Google Calendar tasks. The notifications hit me as soon as I come in the next day!

5.30 pm
Daily power walk to catch the train home.

What are the key skills?

Communication is one of the first things that spring to mind because that lays the foundation for managing any successful project. Being organised is another which sounds obvious, followed by risk management and negotiating which are possibly underestimated at times.

What are the biggest challenges?

Not being in control of the whole process because of multiple stakeholders—basically, I’m a bit of a control freak! Keeping budgets on track, and communicating that information to the team and stakeholders. And of course, not forgetting the classic ‘scope creep’. 🙁

What do you love about this role?

The variety. I’m a stickler for routine and predictability, as you would imagine for a project manager. But often there is something to react to and mitigate on a daily basis. I guess that means no day is the same! 🙂

Chris McInerney

Chris McInerney

Chris has experience in branding, print and web projects, over a career spanning twenty years. He has been key in delivering new websites for Catholic Herald, Worktech and NATS. When he's not involved with client work, he's part of the team looking after our marketing and branding. Outside work, Chris can usually be found running around in the name of keep fit. Often it's just him chasing after his pet dog, Charlie. Chris is also an avid watcher of Liverpool FC, mostly from his armchair, although he tells us he occasionally makes the trip to Anfield.

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