Simon Buddle is a well-known figure at CEDIA – he’s Head of Standards at the EMEA office and has taught many, many courses during his tenure with the association. One of his specialties: teaching the nuts and bolts of project management.
According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), in order to define “project management,” one first needs to define a “project.” The PMI website breaks it down:
[A project is] a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result.
A project is temporary in that it has a defined beginning and end in time, and therefore defined scope and resources.
And a project is unique in that it is not a routine operation, but a specific set of operations designed to accomplish a singular goal. …
Project management, then, is the application of knowledge, skills, tools, and techniques to project activities to meet the project requirements.
The trouble a great many integration firms run into – especially the smaller ones – is that “project management” becomes a catch-as-catch-can kind of exercise. Buddle explains, “You get an engineer going, ‘Oh, I need to get this onto the site today because I spoke to the builder last week and he told me that the ceilings are closing up.’ And so actually what that person's doing is a bit of project management.” The problems become obvious: Is that individual communicating what’s happening to the rest of the team? Is what he or she is doing fitting into an agreed-upon timeline? Is the inventory there for whatever’s needed for that aspect? Is there another aspect of the job that the engineer should be paying attention to that may fall by the wayside as the employee is focused on this particular aspect?
“Project management is a job in and of itself,” says Buddle. “You can be trained as a project manager. You can get a degree as a project manager. You don't need to know necessarily about the technicalities of what you're delivering. You need to know how to deliver a project. So the key is putting that mindset into our business, understand as well, project management takes a lot of time.”
Too Many Cooks
Without an overarching supervisor, someone who’s keeping both the final goal in mind as well as checking off the boxes of daily minutia, everybody's then doing a little portion of the project management and people aren't necessarily communicating with one another properly. The question becomes: If you’re a small (or even tiny) business, you’ve got to be able to wear got to wear multiple hats. So who becomes the “project manager?”
“I think you have to decide fairly early on who within the business is going to be closest to the project for the duration of it,” says Buddle. “It may be a difficult call, but for example, if you are the senior engineer, the company’s going to make you the project manager.”
The issue then becomes proper time apportionment – but what technicians and engineers who are “in the thick of it” often don’t realize is that spending an allotment of time on project management will likely result in fewer man-hours than an uncoordinated, scattershot approach.
“It's very easy for jobs to get away from you if you don't manage them, plan them,” says Buddle. “If you’ve been planning properly, sure you'll have some problems, but there'll be fewer. But if you don't start designing until you're sitting on the customer's floor on a Friday night, you're going to have a lot of problems.”
Interested in learning more? Buddle was a guest on a recent episode of The CEDIA Podcast which you can find here.