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Project Administrator


Dear Dave
I have been asked to become a project administrator assigned to work in support of project managers on major projects as a full-fledged member of the team. This is a new position for me and for our firm, and I have been searching for information to help me more fully understand and, eventually, implement this role. So far I have come up with little of substance. Can you direct me to resources or offer suggestions?
PW NE


Dear PW
I posed your question to a friend of mine, Scott Braley, a project management expert and president of Braley Consulting, an Atlanta-based consulting firm working with the design and construction industry. Here’s what Scott had to offer.

Becoming a project team member is both possible and rewarding; however, it will require some diligent preparation. Unfortunately, there is no “one source,” so let’s look at a few of the more important components.

  • Focus on Your Specific Assignment and Working Relationship—Meet with your PM(s) and ask three questions: 1. How can we work best together? (Look for "team" and "collaboration"—if you hear words that imply "just do what we tell you" run as fast as possible from the situation!) 2. For what aspects of the team's overall work will I be responsible, and in which aspects do I have the most freedom? 3. How will we form a partnership and collaborative working relationship?
     
  • Learn about Project Management—Regardless of the discipline, read a book on project management just to know the sequence of work and to pick up some of the lingo. Notwithstanding the offensive title, Complete Idiot's Guide to Project Management is an easy-to-read place to start.
     
  • Read What the PM's Read—Review a guide to project management that is used by your PMs. Many PMs, regardless of their discipline, find The American Institute of Architects (AIA) Handbook of Professional Practice an outstanding reference. I suggest you focus on the chapters related to Project and Design Team.
     
  • Head to the Field—Ask/tell your PM that you want to spend one full month in the field at a jobsite. This alone could be the best preparation and training you can have. In the field be mindful of what to look for, what really happens in the administrative work of our industry, learn a healthy lesson about terminology (including the kind that can be repeated in an office setting), and be aware of the attitudes toward design professionals. (The attitude component is a “secret weapon” in making sure your PM and team are highly successful.)
     
  • Check with the A/E/C Professional Associations—Many professional associations and societies (such as the American Council of Engineering Companies [ACEC], AIA, Associated General Contractors [AGC]) have resources in the form of short courses, seminars and publications. While it will require a bit of “drilling down,” there are nuggets of wisdom to be found by the diligent prospector.
     
  • Take a Course On-Line or Locally—A variety of “on-line” providers offer courses. Many technical schools, as well as community colleges, offer courses in administration, some with emphasis on project administration. These are usually quite good, and can be easily tailored for application to A/E/C team project work.
     
  • Focus on “Administrative Assistant” Capabilities—There is a wealth of information and skill development resources in the arena of “Administrative Assistance.” By expanding the topic just a bit, you will find a volume of support from organizations such as The American Management Association.
     
  • Participate in a Seminar—Many of the low-price-point national seminar providers offer one-day courses in general administrative, organization and support skills (Fred Pryor, SkillPath). These are helpful to confirm what you may already know, and you will pick up a few good tips. Be mindful that these providers are able to keep the “tuition” price low because they use the seminar as a forum for offering/selling attendees a variety of products related to the topic.
     
  • Tap Into Special Interest Groups—There are a number of specially focused interest groups that may be appealing. These groups exist and provide a good resource at the national, local and skill-specific levels. [Scott Braley will provide a bibliography to those interested. Please call Scott at 404-252-9840.]
     
  • Learn to Schedule and Balance Workload—Learn how to schedule—both philosophically and technically. Become proficient in using some form of scheduling software. If your PM or team has no preference, select one that works best for you and set a great example for your team.
     
  • Manage the Data—Recognize that managing data is the core of your work, and learn how to use a database management system/software. You'll have a million things, and maybe as many people, to keep up with. If you know database management/manipulation you’ll wow your Project Manager and team—and become indispensable in the process.
     
  • Become Familiar with Contracts and Risk Management—Read about contracts and risk management, which is an area that could help your career skyrocket as a support to PMs. Many insurance underwriters have very helpful website resources and “reference libraries.”
     
  • Find a Comprehensive Reference—In addition to these active pursuits, you may wish to have a “go to/look up” reference in your repertoire. The Project Management Institute's “Body of Knowledge” (PMBOK) is comprehensive—in both positive and negative connotations—but serves as a helpful reference for vocabulary and basic concepts.

PMs and A/E/C professionals know and appreciate the genuine value of skilled administrative support team members. Take the steps outlined above and you’ll be well on your way toward a satisfying and rewarding assignment.

 

 
 
Wahby and Associates