The management of a project with high complexity is in no case a honey lick. The main burden of a project always lies with the project manager, even if his team supports him so well in the handling of work packages. But the project manager can get valuable support from a project assistant. This is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of a professional approach.
Regardless of whether the project assistance comes from your own company or is outsourced, with good qualifications it is always a valuable relief for the project manager and the project team. Once you get used to it, you don’t want to miss it anymore. Their support enables the project team to concentrate on the essential project work and to lead the project to success quickly and efficiently.
Project Assistance – What for?
Shortage of time for the project manager
It is well known that scarcity of resources is a frequently cited reason why projects are delayed or even fail. Since one of the most important human resources in a project is that of the project manager, its availability, ideally 100%, should be guaranteed. Administrative tasks for which the project manager is generally overpaid are the perfect tasks for project assistance.
Reducing the workload of the project manager
As in top management, the magic word in project management is delegation. Why do you have a team? It is only logical that the project manager cannot do everything alone.
But now it is usually the case that the project team members are burdened in the same way, if not more than the project management. Because the totality of the operative work in terms of content depends on them. And a project team that works 100% for the project only exists in the project fairy tale. In reality, every project team member also has to carry along his or her bundle of line activities, which take their time for the project. Understandably, no employee is happy about having to create status reports, minutes, meeting agendas, or project plans.
Many project managers don’t realize how much time and nerves they can save by having the support of a professional project assistant. According to the study „Excellence in Office Management“ by PLU-GmbH, the average time saving that a project manager can achieve with a well-trained assistant is 44%. This means that he suddenly has almost twice as much time available for his actual task: The management of the project.
A project assistant is more than a secretary!
Internal or external project assistance?
The first question that arises is whether project assistance should be recruited from internal ranks or whether an external provider should be found for the duration of the project. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Internal project assistance
…. is already familiar with the processes and employees in the company, her skills are well known and she is quickly available.
External project assistance
…. comes completely unencumbered to the project team and is gone again after the project. She is 100% available for the project, does not incur any non-wage labour costs and has project experience as well as training that is usually tailored to her role and can therefore support the project manager in a targeted manner on the basis of her project know-how.
Tasks of a project assistant
Interface between project manager and project team
The project assistant acts as an interface between the project manager and the project team, takes care of the filing and above all the retrieval of project documents and acts as a filter for problems that would otherwise end up unsorted with the project management.
The project assistant differs from the „classic“ secretary in her qualifications and professional skills.
The position of a project assistant is demanding. In addition to requirements such as organisational and communication skills, flexibility, independent work and confidence in working with computers and MS Office, project assistants are also expected to have a sound basic knowledge of project management.
Scope and competencies of project assistance
A project assistant, just like any other employee in a project, naturally needs defined leeway and competencies and must know exactly what is in their power and what is not. A project assistant who first has to ask the project manager about every detail has no positive effect on the project manager’s time management – on the contrary. Here, the project manager is required to actually hand over certain activities and to delegate decision-making authority and responsibility to his assistant.
The greater the project manager’s confidence in project assistance, the better for the project manager. Conversely, project assistance must of course prove through personal responsibility, independence and absolute reliability that it can also be relied on in crisis situations. As with the project manager, project assistance only becomes apparent when it becomes difficult whether it is suitable for the job or not.
Collaboration with the project manager
Regular (preferably weekly) meetings are important to ensure smooth cooperation between the project manager and the project assistant. In these meetings, the project assistant receives all the background information he or she needs for independent action in the sense of the project. In addition, topics are discussed that cannot be decided by the project assistant alone.
The regular exchange of information eliminates the need for a lot of door-to-door coordination, which does not take long individually, but certainly takes more time than the weekly briefings.
Core tasks of project assistance in detail
- Preparation and follow-up of the kick-off meeting
- Support of the project manager in the preparation of project plans
– project structure plan
– work package description
– time schedule
– project organisation
– project communication plan
– milestone plan
– function diagram
– environment analysis
- Creation of standardized templates of all kinds, e.g. work package descriptions, status reports, role descriptions
- Ensuring the working ability of the project team (coordination of the development of the IT infrastructure, procurement of project premises, office material, etc.)
Project implementation and controlling
- Creation of project status reports
- Preparation of project status presentations for various target groups (project team, project manager, client, steering committee, etc.)
- Updating the project plans (see project start)
- Schedule coordination of project meetings
- Preparation and follow-up of project meetings and workshops (printing of documents, preparation of flip charts, catering, securing the spatial infrastructure with PC, beamer, etc.)
- Creation and sending of meeting minutes
- Creation and administration of task and todo lists
- Filing and administration of project documents (electronic and paper)
- Central contact point for all project communication
- Overview of absences of project team members
- Contact person for the project team for administrative questions of all kinds
- Preparation and maintenance of the project manual
- Completion of project documentation (electronic and in paper)
- Archiving of project documents
- Support of the project manager in the preparation of the final report
- Support of the project manager in the preparation of the closing event
- Organization and documentation of a Lessons Learned Workshop
Possible job description of a project assistant
- Theoretical knowledge and practical experience with standard project management methods
- Experience with project collaboration and in the project management process
- Safe handling of project planning tools (e.g. MS Project)
- Secure use of MS Office to create templates and reports
- Backup handling with MS Outlook to make an appointment
- Flexibility regarding working hours
- Personal responsibility and self-discipline
- Courage to make your own decisions
- Structured working, independent setting of priorities
- Security in dealing with people (in person and by telephone)
- Resilience in crisis situations
- organisational talent
- Understanding numbers
The management of a project with high complexity is in no case a honey lick. But the project manager can get support. This is not a sign of weakness, but a professional approach.
Regardless of whether the project assistance comes from your own company or is external, with good qualifications it is in any case a valuable relief for the project manager and the project team, which you don’t want to miss once you get used to it. Their support enables the project team to concentrate on the essential project work and to lead the project to success quickly and efficiently.