Initiating new services and dealing with providers is an integral part of our company’s activities that expands the list of services in our payment kiosk. For better work organization the connecting link between customers and developers is needed. This task is being carried out by a Project manager (PM), a person who controls the start of a new project, monitors its stages and deadlines, holds negotiations with clients and reports the results of work execution. Elena Khaletskaya told us what the position of PM in our company does look like.
Interviewer: Elena, tell us why you have become a project manager?
Elena: I always enjoyed working in a team, communicating with new people, taking part in negotiations, planning and arranging projects. That is why I started attending courses on project management to get necessary knowledge and skills in this field. I found my new activity very interesting. When learning I knew how to develop projects right, how to manage risks, which relations between project participants do exist, and what is the correct way of organizing all the processes to get the result needed. After a while I started to develop and promote small projects and later I applied all my knowledge and experience to deal with more serious ones.
I.: What are the main responsibilities of a project manager?
E.: As a rule, a client does not need to know about the project and its stages themselves; a client is mostly interested in results. For this purpose, a project manager is needed. PM is a person who develops the concept of a project, prepares all the project documents, plans its stages, monitors the teamwork, controls the deadlines and informs a client on the project implementation. The main task of a project manager is to bring the project to the end having complied with its deadlines and costs. The more detailed the final result is, the higher chances to work out all the risks and details as well as to meet the terms and budget of the project are. Yet, there are some situations when you have to extend the deadlines because every project is new and unknown, something we have not done before.
I.: What does the launch of a company project begin with?
E.: A project begins with a decision on activating a new service, elaboration of details of a final product, and making a list of tasks needed for project’s implementation. Once the decision is made, the contract is signed up, we move to its implementation: we prepare documents, develop a plan on activities, and define the deadlines. Before launching every new project, I answer two questions: how much time it will take and how much money it will demand. Then you need just to control the stages, meet the deadlines, report the results and consult a client. When the project is done, I sum up all the results by checking if we are behind the schedule and if it is so, the reason for it, and think over the way to escape this mistake in the future.
I.: What is the most challenging part of your work?
E.: Probably the most challenging thing is making changes to a project because corrections in most cases influence the deadlines and quality of a product that is very essential for us because we focus on the service of high quality. In such situations you need to quickly determine all alternatives of changing and coordinate them with a client.
I.: Every PM has to control the deadlines, check the tasks and implementation processes of the whole project. Do you have your own methods of project management?
E.: My main method is to build mutual communication both in a team and with a client. I believe that when dealing with developers it is not right to set tasks, send instructions and then wait when everything is done. It is important to split the project tasks into smaller parts. Every part should be coordinated, completed and confirmed as the steps made to achieving final result. It is significant to always communicate with the client because once you lose this connection, then it is likely that the client will get the result which is different from what he expected. It is great when clients are involved into the process since they have the vision of what the result should be, therefore they help to prioritize. We try to constantly communicate with every provider, hold negotiations and conduct acceptance testing, so in case of any changes there will be a little influence on the project costs.
I.: How do you negotiate with customers and partners? Do you usually manage to get the needed results?
E.: The question is: what is considered to be the needed results? If to speak about provider companies with whom we sign contracts, usually they have their own opinion on the service activation costs or project deadline while we have our own one. The whole process of exchanging opinions can take from 2 to 3 months because every party wants to reach its own goal. Once the agreement on service costs is reached, the negotiation of another nature starts. Here we discuss technical issues, for example building user interface. Thus, during discussions with Western Union team we managed to convince them that our specialists do have greater experience in dealing with users and that we do know how to build a user interface of a kiosk correctly, so that their service become more convenient and clear for our clients. Though, in the beginning they had another vision of design and they were very persistent. Do we always reach the needed result? Mostly, yes. There are some services that we consider quite interesting or a provider needs to launch its services on our terminal. And here everything is negotiated at one meeting. But sometimes the very procedure of signing up a contract takes longer time because of a client's approvals in three departments or so. From our side, we always try to complete all the processes quite quickly since a new service means an increase in clients and profit correspondingly.
I.: What projects are you working on now?
E.: At the moment we are dealing with connection of the state service called Infinity, also keeping on extending the list of international services, working on adding an external commission to Etisalat. We have already launched a pilot project on these services in order to check interconnection of the systems in process environment. Besides, we have recently finished the connection of Western Union money transfers to our payment system.
I.: If you understand that you do not meet the deadlines, what measures do you undertake to complete the project on time?
E.: First of all, it is essential to find strong points of your team, build successful communication and help to work together. At second, when we understand that we do not meet the deadlines, we define the problem causing the lag and fix it. In such situations our provider's team helps us. They advise us on what we need to concentrate, which tasks are of higher priority. The main thing in such moments is to focus on what matters the most and to try to not being distracted by trivia. Our goal is to complete the project with a good quality and on time.
I.: What can users expect from our payment system in the future?
E.: As we said earlier, we have launched Western Union money transfer service. Now, we are negotiating on connection of state services, as examples utility payments and services in each emirate. We also continue extending the list of mobile operators and countries which services are available in our terminals.
I.: In your opinion what qualities shall a project manager have? What is an essential to know and be able to do?
E.: Of course, it is important to know the topic area itself since if you do not have any idea on how a product works or the aspects of project management, it is impossible to complete the project. Number one is to have good memory, to be able to concentrate on details, to plan and prioritize tasks, to not being afraid of taking responsibilities, and to persist in your opinion as well as to find a common ground with your team and client. When negotiating on a new product it is essential to evaluate its opportunities and define the ways to improve it. PM needs to be a multifunctional specialist because she or he has to deal with variety of issues including technical ones.
I.: Elena, thank you for a nice talk and useful information. Now we know better about particulars of adding new services and project management in our company. We wish you luck in all your activities!
Team of Taunigma & NT.Payments & InDoor.TV