Help Wanted: Modern-Day Project Manager

In the Life Sciences industry, we’ve been managing projects since the birth of acetaminophen.Project Management skills Recent years have brought a demand for project managers to manage “more tightly.” Already aggressive timelines are being further accelerated. Pressure for speed and efficiency is at a record high. Everyone involved in project management is rolling up their sleeves to gain new, more meaningful insight into the portfolio.

At Pharmica, big pharma, mid pharma, biopharma and CRO clients are all asking for help in taking their project management skills to the next level. Ultimately, what virtually every organization needs is a “modern-day project manager.” Someone who excels at the soft skills but also:

  1. Exhibits best practices for timeline management
  2. Embraces tool use and integration
  3. Emphasizes decision making and value capture

Best practices for timeline management

About a decade ago, project management tools—such as Planisware and Microsoft Project—gained popularity. These tools allowed companies to centralize project portfolios and create project timelines. However, it soon became clear that project managers were using the tools to manage milestones, not detailed timelines. Consequently, the first step for these projects was to provide training on timeline management (for example, predecessor versus successor). While some companies continued to evolve, many others stagnated in their use of project management tools.

Pharmica believes that modern-day project managers will adopt these best practices for managing timelines:

  • Using templates to jumpstart the planning process
  • Embedding timeline goals in the project plan
  • Creating data standards for reporting
  • Identifying key tasks and cycle times and creating consistency between projects to enable efficient reporting
  • Establishing standards while still providing flexibility for project teams
  • Providing highly relevant, role-specific views of timeline data

While these best practices are critical to implementing a successful timeline management program, timelines can’t stand alone. They need to be integrated with other data. And the data needs to be presented in an efficient, “everyday” view for project managers and teams. After all, the goal isn’t to create perfect Gantt charts. It’s to deliver projects on or ahead of schedule.

Tool utilization and integration

It should come as no surprise that the modern-day project manager has to do more than manage projects. In addition to all the traditional tasks and responsibilities, the modern-day project manager must also serve as champions of collaboration, team productivity, and data integration. That requires at least an understanding of systems and tools.

Just as important, modern-day project managers need to know when to provide overview versus “deep dive” data. Most members of life sciences project teams don’t want to spend a great deal of time working within the timeline software. But they will value the opportunity to integrate relevant data.

That’s why modern-day project managers will set up increasingly effective SharePoint sites to facilitate day-to-day collaboration with their teams. They view a project SharePoint site as the team’s “window into the world” of the project. Not surprisingly, then, they seek to integrate their timeline data within these sites. With such integration, everyone has full visibility to the timeline and is working toward the same goals. And team members enjoy that visibility without having to use a separate tool and remember yet another set of credentials—only to get lost and frustrated within timeline software.

In addition to integrating timeline data, modern-day projects managers are beginning to bring CTMS and other data into their project SharePoint sites, as well. Thus, timelines can be updated automatically, not manually.

Creating and maintaining a single, authoritative source of information is at the very heart of being a modern-day project manager. But all of that is still just a means to the ultimate best practice: making decisions and capturing value.

Decision making and value capture

At the end of the day, the modern-day project manager’s goal is to take control of increasing complexity, including growing reliance on outsourcers. By creating a unified project platform, integrating data and making it available to all members of a project team, the modern-day project manager creates a decision-friendly environment. The platform becomes a place to evaluate, make, document and communicate decisions—even making them available as wikis or via another kind of collaboration log.

The modern-day project manager knows that this type of transparency and team culture can catch fire within and across teams. Soon, a timeline is no longer viewed as an unreadable Gantt chart but rather as valuable input used in making and communicating decisions and articulating the value of those decisions.

Pharmas, biopharmas and CROs won’t successfully address the complex challenges of today and tomorrow with yesterday’s approach to project management. Meanwhile, project managers won’t acquire the mindset and skills of a modern-day project manager with basic timeline training. It’s time for individuals and companies to being transforming the role—and the results.

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