Many skills are needed to manage our large and sometimes complex projects: motivating, steering, communicating, controlling, taking responsibility, improvising and much more. All of this works sometimes better and sometimes worse. In this article you will find out what experiences I had as a project lead rookie at CAMELOT and how I developed in this role.
Looking for a Project Lead… Who, Me?
“The role of project manager in our SAP implementation project should be taken on by someone who is familiar with the world of logistics, has SAP experience and is not afraid to learn new topics. Nina, how can we support you in taking on this role?”. That was the question I was asked last year. Since then, I have been leading this project with all its ups and downs.
The question came as a bit of a surprise to me. Yes, I was already a team member of the preliminary project at the same customer, so I knew the background and processes. And yes, I worked in logistics for several years before I came to Camelot. And yes, becoming a project lead was part of my Camelot career plan. But taking on such a large project at the start of implementation not only caused me joy and pride, but also respect and uncertainty.
Managing an IT Project without IT Background – Is That Even Possible?
We had already created a concept for the implementation in the blueprint phase of the project, there was a time frame and a budget, which I was now responsible for. The project members consisted of Camelot developers and the customer’s developers, but we still had to grow together as a team. As can be expected in a SAP implementation project, the project leaned quite heavily towards IT. I come from the strategic-logistical world, so I wasn’t able to support in the projects in all technical depths. Could I still manage an IT project, with all its technical details, architecture decisions and integration issues, I thought to myself? Well, the short answer is yes. The more interesting answer is how I learned what I needed to know – and what I did not need to know at all.
Project Lead – What Now?
Of course, I knew the basic tasks and responsibilities of a project lead from my previous projects, where I could observe how my project managers executed them. Still, they are a bit different for each project, depending on the size of the project, the involvement in the project management from the customer side or the experience of the team.
In addition, there are many activities that a project lead performs, prepares or observes in the background, without being apparent in the day-to-day business. Therefore, at the time of the project start, I had a rough idea about the tasks that were expected of me, hoping to have thought of everything. Well, let’s get started…
Fortunately, with Camelot, you can count on not being thrown in at the deep end alone. I could rely on the support of an experienced colleague from our project team before the start of the project as well as at any time during the project. Other colleagues and my superiors also supported me in word and deed at every conceivable point. We talked the upcoming tasks through in advance, how to best manage them, what to look out for and when, which tools are helpful, which escalation measures have to be adhered to, and much more.
In particular, the focus was on the fact that project management is less about competence in technical depth, in this case development expertise, and more about project control. This included making decisions, recognizing risks, and taking countermeasures at an early stage, understanding the motivation or concerns of the team and responding to them, creating transparency and an overview for all stakeholders, and maintaining consistent communication with the customer. In other words, it was a matter of being optimally supported by the project team, of steering the project correctly and, conversely, of optimally supporting the project team in being able to realize the project successfully.
Well-Prepared, Nothing Can Go Wrong…but You Never Stop Learning
With the support of my colleagues, I felt well-prepared to take on the joys and hurdles of the project lead tasks. Another advantage was that, due to the trusting relationship with our customer, we were also able to communicate openly to them that I could and would consult internally when challenges arose and that the burden of full responsibility was therefore not on me all by myself.
In the course of the project, I was able to watch myself develop my project management skills bit by bit. Skills I thought I already had, such as assertiveness and structured work, I had to and was able to raise to a whole new level. Also, I had to reinvent myself in new skills, such as change management or stakeholder management.
The tasks that sounded so simple in theory often turned out to be more elaborate, more complex, more unforeseeable, or simply different in practice. I encountered unexpected situations more than once, but I was able to count rely on my internal support every time: giving me methods for dealing with these situations or offering tips on how to avoid a repetition of an alike situation, and sometimes even simply saying, “Fall down – fix the crown – move on, you can’t solve everything.” But never did I receive reproaches or blame from my colleagues and superiors, never did I have to worry that I would be left alone with new challenges.
Instead, there was always the mentality of “pulling the cart out of the mud together.” And this mentality was also adapted by our customer, so our collaboration in the project builds on a lot of trust, reliability and motivation.
In the last year, I have been able to develop my skills and competences enormously due to the chance to take over the responsibility for our implementation project. I would always take an opportunity like this again. Even today, after more than a year, I am still learning in my role.
Growing Within the Role
Depending on the size of the project, the role of project lead involves more responsibility, more foresight, more tasks than I had imagined. Therefore, first experiences in project management or leadership as well as knowledge in customer management and the business environment are, in my experience, important cornerstones to perform well in this role.
Camelot gives you the chance to develop further these first basic skills in a responsible role, with a safety net, and never on you own. So, if you also enjoy the challenge of fast development, you are at the right place at Camelot.
I would like to express my special thanks to my colleagues Christian, Andreas and Peter for their tireless support! Thank you and thank you Camelot. I am looking forward to many more successful projects.