Project and Account Managers

Project and Account Managers

Ask Andi: How do project and account managers work together? We’ve picked up a number of new clients and we’re running into coordination problems. Most of our staff is technical. We’re seeing the need for our people to support multiple clients. How do you suggest we organize for the next round of growth?

Thoughts of the Day:  Project and account managers have different responsibilities. Project managers work with department teams to complete a finished product. Account managers work with clients to determine their needs regarding products and services. Keeping work on track is a critical skill and requires both technical knowledge and the ability to communicate. Set up measures that help you ensure work is done on time, according to standard.

Project and account managers

Project and account managers consider the following two ways to tackle keeping the workload on track. One is managing the projects from start to finish. The other is working with clients to identify and plan out needs.

Managing projects from beginning to end is about thinking internally. Keeping track of the workload, and knowing what skills are needed and who is available are all pieces of the puzzle. It’s essential that anyone assigned to manage projects is able to use a calendar and keep track of multiple projects, personnel assignments, and priorities. The project manager has to plan and check off the completion of assignments day to day, week to week, and month to month.

Account management is the external piece of the picture. The account manager must be able to look at clients’ current and long-term needs. It’s essential that the person holding this job is able to effectively communicate priorities, budgets, and timelines. Account manager positions may be less technically oriented than project manager jobs, with greater emphasis on communication and sales-related skills.

Often account managers have quotas for expanding an existing book of business. They meet the quota by identifying new contacts and opportunities within existing accounts that they have been assigned to manage. In order to grow the base of business, the account manager has to be able to “ask for the order” and negotiate terms with the client

Some companies can afford both positions – project manager and account manager. In that case, the two people should work closely together to figure out how to meet client demands, organize workflow priorities, plan upcoming assignments, and communicate with staff and clients about job status.

Perform different tasks, but work closely together

When the company can only afford one position, decide where to put the emphasis. On internal coordination or client expansion? With an active flow of clients requests, focus on project management. To gain more sales from existing clients, hire an account manager and assign sales goals.

Job skills for both positions include the ability to communicate internally and externally. Both in writing and verbally. Be sure internal people understand what you ask them to do. And where you expect them to show up if you rotate from one client site to another. Assign projects to match individuals’ technical skills. Externally, they let clients know who, what, and when. Who will be doing the work, what work will be done, and when to expect and carry out that work.

Make it easier to plan out work by defining typical projects that the company works on. Make a list of the most common types of work that clients request. Work out a typical timeline. Define what on-the-job skills are needed. Create and review a checklist when the job is done. Train individuals or teams to handle specific types of projects.

If you can’t afford both a project manager and an account manager, pair up a project manager with someone on the sales force. Ask the salesperson to provide support building proposals, negotiating with clients, and “asking for the order”. Put the project manager in charge of managing the workload. Consider giving the project manager a bonus for meeting or exceeding the quota for work successfully completed, in order to keep everyone’s eye on the important goal of profitable growth.

Looking for a good book?

Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Project Management, by Greg Horine.