What is Augmented work?
An augmented project occurs when a company needs to outsource its staffing to complete a business objective. This reason could be due to an understaffed team (which is very common in the current market), or perhaps it’s just that the team needs specific skills that are only necessary for this project. Therefore, it wouldn’t make sense to hire for a full-time position. Either way, ICs (Individual Contributors) are outsourced from an agency or freelanced. We specifically refer to projects using ICs from an agency in this article.
The outsourcing team may think, why would I also need to hire their Project Manager (PM) when our team manages the project? That’s the question we will be answering.
The benefits of having a project manager on Augmented projects
An augmented project, like any project, needs management before it even begins.
Including the Project Manager in the sales calls will significantly influence the project's success. The Project Manager gains invaluable context during the early stages of a project when the client explains what they are trying to achieve and why they are seeking help. The more information the Project Manager has about the project; the more supported the ICs will be.
It’s the Project Manager’s role to understand the team’s available capacity, how quickly each particular IC works, and who would be the best fit for the task(s) at hand. The Project Manager and the Account Manager identify the team, ensure their schedule is clear, and brief them on the project.
How a project starts determines how it ends.
A project manager creates the kickoff to get everyone involved in the project familiarized with its details, timeline, and goals. It is uninterrupted time that allows everyone the space to meet the teams and ask questions, which will produce a more enjoyable and successful engagement.
The project manager creates an agenda ahead of time that everyone can view before the meeting to prepare. Often, kickoffs have a significant headcount, which can create issues when you don’t have someone directing the flow of the meeting. Additionally, you want someone who leads the discussion but doesn’t monopolize it, someone that allows everyone a chance to voice their opinions. Project Managers are kicking off a project, but they are also kicking off new relationships and the skills necessary to facilitate an open environment required for a project to flourish.
Project Managers are more than just organizers of the meeting; they also know what takeaways need to come from it. Their goal throughout a kickoff, other than keeping everyone on track and on time, is to gather the necessary information to direct the project toward success. In doing this, Project Managers make sure all parties agree on the expectations of both the IC and the client. Sometimes that task isn’t always given away easily. Project Managers create the space for questions to arise in addition to asking questions that may not be obvious to others due to their experience with variegated teams and perspectives.
Project managers are often known to be over communicators and excessive note-takers (which we’ll dive into later). This trait comes in handy, especially in kickoffs, as they document EVERYTHING. These records allow individuals involved a place of reference throughout the project.
All things considered, a kickoff led by an experienced Project Manager is essential to a smooth launch and the continual progression of an augmented project.
Support must never be overlooked.
A Project Manager is often seen as a mix between a therapist, a parent, and a mediator. While always acting in the best interest of the project outcome and the individuals involved.
Therapist: Project Managers offer space for others to talk openly to drive productive conversations. This type of communication is valuable for both the client and the IC to ensure expectations remain aligned.
Parent: The IC(s) on the project can benefit from internal encouragement. Project Managers allow the IC(s) to discuss the project aloud and show someone outside the company what they are working on. This type of support helps them feel confident and appreciated, which will increase the value of their work.
Mediator: There are times when it is best to speak to someone on the outside about the progression of a project involving a third-party team. Project Managers offer their time to both IC(s) and clients to provide feedback regarding the performance of one another, especially if there is a tense or uncomfortable situation. They can then work to find solutions and constructively relay the discovered information. Additionally, the Project Manager acts as the main POC throughout the project, offloading any communication that an account manager would otherwise provide or potentially leave unsaid.
Organization & Thoroughness
A little organization goes a long way.
The first example of a Project Manager’s organizational skills is the kickoff. They schedule it, invite all the necessary collaborators, create an agenda, take detailed notes, follow up with a recap of the meeting, including a list of assigned action items, schedule the next meeting, and repeat the process. Every task listed needs to be done, and having a PM relieves those that would otherwise be taking the time to complete them, allowing them the opportunity to jump back into the work.
As mentioned earlier, the Project Manager’s note-taking abilities are unmatched (maybe not to a stenographer) and, therefore, relieve the mental burden of others to take notes when they can actively participate in the conversation. Commonly the PM will take notes right in the shared plan so that everyone has access to them. They know that documentation is irreplaceable, and for that reason, the more information, the better. They will record everything worth noting during each meeting or call in a well-structured format that anyone can clearly understand and reference throughout the project’s life.
Projects can get messy, whether it’s the scope changing or schedules misaligning. A Project Manager can help keep track of the original plan and when and how it changes along the way.
There is one major asset of value that a Project Manager brings that didn't get its own section, and that is communication. The reason is that communication is the foundation of everything a Project Manager does. Onboarding gives the PM the context they need to accurately inform the team on how to prepare for the kickoff. The PM's agenda and notes from every project meeting give all the individuals involved in the project clear directions and expectations. The Project Manager is the source of information and coordinates how that information is received.
If the client acts as the airline and the IC is the pilot, the Project Manager is Air Traffic Control. The airline provides the plane, the booking agents, flight attendants, corporate, etc., but occasionally has to outsource pilots. To fly that plane safely from point A to B, they need Air Traffic Control to guide them. They do the scheduling, organize and expedite the flow of air traffic, assist pilots during takeoff and landing, and monitor the active flights throughout their time in the air. Air Traffic Control (Project Managers) guarantees safety and success.