We recently caught up with to two of our Project Managers to understand what a Project Management role looks like in an App Development Agency. Terence Jenkins (Left) and Liam Sibley (Right) shared their experiences of working in Sonin, and explained what the role of a PM is and what they enjoy the most!
What does Project Manager do in an app development agency?
Liam: I would summarise that a PM is the glue that binds an app development project together!
Terence: We work across all of the Operations Team and stay with the project from start to finish to ensure that the right product is being built for the client.
Liam: The design team start the process. Once their designs are agreed with the client, we have to make sure the developers understand which parts of the app they need to build. A key part of a Project Manager’s role is to check in with the developers to make sure everything is on track. We also liaise with clients to make sure they are confident in our progress and we’re also there to answer any questions.
Terence: One of a Project Manager’s main priorities is to ensure the projects are kept on track and on budget, too.
What skills and qualities are important for a Project Manager in app development?
Terence: Timekeeping is vital! As a Project Manager you need to adopt a balance between keeping to the timeline agreed with the client so that means helping people manage their time. At Sonin, we have hybrid and remote working. That means you can’t just turn around in the office to ask someone a question all of the time so you need excellent communication skills to be aware of what is happening across the project when you can’t see everyone you’re working with, too. At Sonin, we are one of the faces the client sees too, so being personable is important.
Liam: I would add to what Terence said that you need good situational awareness. You also need to be able to look ahead for any potential issues or risks to the project, flag them early and problem-solve too!
Can you explain the typical stages involved in an app development project?
Liam: The point where we receive the project is where it is taken from concept to reality. We are part of the ‘go time’ team. Initially, design gets involved to create plans and we get involved with the setup. Typically we take a summary of context from a Discovery Workshop report and break into down into chunks of work for the developers – this is what we call Sprints.
Terence: Once the project set-up is all done, we bring everyone on the project together for a call; developers, design and product, to ensure clarity across the project and that everyone knows what they’re doing. Then the action starts!
Liam: Whilst the developers are completing the development sprints, we are making sure everything is held together, checking-in with both clients and developers and releasing builds gradually to clients for testing.
What does your day-to-day role look like?
Liam: Every day is different. Terence and I work on different projects, which will be in different stages. I need to make sure I juggle my different priorities for each project carefully. I tend to do this by putting the key tasks in a ‘time box’ which involves allocating time to a task so as not to get distracted and maintain efficiency.
I start the day by checking in with the developers; what they did yesterday and what they will be doing today. It’s great to get an overview of what is going on within the project and ‘stand-ups’ (internal meetings with developers). I then work on actionable requests, such as sprint set up and client requests.
The afternoon is usually where client meetings take place. I also check back in with our planning boards to see how the developers are getting on and assist where I need to.
Terence: My day is very similar! Part of the Project Manager’s role is to keep the project moving along, so it’s important to sort out and help with anything blocking the teams in the morning and then work out what the day ahead will look like. I use a slightly different method of time-boxing to manage my time. I tend to time myself when working on tasks to keep track.
What challenges do you face in managing app development projects, and how do you overcome them?
Liam: One of the big challenges is that we work to tight time frames, that can easily be impacted (e.g., a bug needs to be fixed or a task is more complex than we realised initially). Multiple things can have a knock-on effect, if project 9 months long lots of small delays can amount to an overall long-term delay. The way we can prevent it from happening, or at least lessen the impact, is by having strong communication with our teams and clients and looking ahead to any potential obstacles, like upcoming holidays. If we do that, we can change our plans or adapt them to support the team and keep ourselves on track. It’s always wise to have a contingency!
Terence: Being in technology, there are always going to be challenges; technology changes and is ever-evolving. We need to keep updating ourselves to stay at the forefront and, equally, to prevent a build-up of future issues. What we built even just last year will need to be updated!
What is your favourite thing about being a Project Manager?
Liam: For me, my favourite thing is the wealth of variety. I like seeing projects through to completion and having a variety to work on! Seeing a project from the start to the end and every part in between! You never know who you are going to be speaking to, what the project will be and that’s exciting because even though tasks are the same, the conversations are completely different.
Terence: I really enjoy getting to know about the other industries we work with! When you get different projects, you get the opportunity to be more aware and build your knowledge of that industry – which is fun and really interesting to see how they operate. I feel like I have a broad knowledge of a wide variety of things!
Do you have any advice for people who are starting off their careers in Project Management?
Liam: There are tons of online training guides and software to help you on your journey. Everyone has what it takes to be a Project Manager. There are so many guides and resources out there to give you the skills and support you need. If you like problem solving and enjoy building your people skills then don’t be afraid to step into something new and try it!
Terence: One of the best bits of being a Project Manager is that you have the unique position of being able to get to know colleagues across the business and make inter-departmental relationships! Right as Liam said at the start, Project Manager’s are the glue of the projects, and within the company too!