Tasks and definition
Do you know what the core tasks of a project assistant are?
Probably not: In a project, the assistant’s job is the most underestimated of all.
Project assistance is one of those terms that everyone in project management has heard before. The problem with such terms: Everyone imagines something different. The same applies to the term project assistance.
Every job in a project has something like a red thread. This red thread, the core of an activity, is always the same:
A manager is always responsible for running a business. A project manager is always responsible for managing the project. A team leader is always responsible for this… You understand what I mean.
Now you probably think: “Fine and fine, a project assistant is always responsible for assisting the project management, it’s not that complicated”.
And that’s exactly where you’re wrong!
Apart from project management, project assistance is the most complex and responsible job in the whole project.
In this article, you can find out why this is the case and what the red thread of an assistant in a project can look like.
Typical Project Assistance Tasks
Organizational function: relieving project management of administrative tasks
In large projects, everything revolves around making processes efficient. Of course, good results are also important. But there is another decisive factor for the success of a project: the project staff.
Project staff make a decisive contribution to the success of a project with their experience. All members of the project team have fixed core tasks. These are geared to the requirements of the project.
Ideally, the competencies are clearly distributed. Each employee has a defined area of responsibility.
Overloading is prevented by ensuring that everyone in the project keeps track of their core tasks.
The reality of project management is different:
In addition to general management skills, a project manager must also have specific industry knowledge of the respective project, strategic skills and emotional intelligence.
A good project manager must be the well-known eggplant in the project.
The egg-laying wooly sow is expected to lay eggs, produce wool and give milk. This may not be an easy job, but every egg-laying wooly milch sow knows what to expect and can orient itself accordingly.
It only becomes problematic when the egg-laying wooly milch sow also has to take over the farmer’s job: When it has to ensure that its eggs are collected, its wool shorn and its milk milk milked.
Does that sound familiar to you? Probably, because in most projects this is an everyday reality:
Project managers spend up to 40 percent of their time on administrative tasks.
Project management is actually responsible for achieving objectives, meeting deadlines and monitoring costs. This corresponds to his competencies, which is why he was hired.
In reality, however, project managers invest far too much of their time in managing the project rather than in leadership. Instead of being able to focus on urgent decisions, they follow up on status reports.
How a project assistant can effectively relieve project managers can be read here in detail. Information about the time saved by a project assistant can be found here.
Studies show that overloading administrative tasks leads to burnout for over a third of all project managers. Overburdened project managers do not pay the necessary attention to managing the project. Also interesting: Project assistance against burnout in project management
This is where a professional project assistant comes in: a project assistant deals specifically with administrative tasks. The daily rate of a project assistant is significantly lower than that of a project manager.
The use of a project assistant therefore saves costs and effectively prevents burnout in project management.
First of all, the project assistant takes over administrative tasks, i.e. a kind of organizational function. This is divided into several sub-areas:
From the start of the project, the project assistant takes over tasks of the project organization and thus supports the project management.
According to his competence and experience, a project assistant is involved in the team composition. The number of employees required in each area is worked out jointly. Role definitions are defined and areas of responsibility defined.
For this purpose, the assistance structures background information of the project members: How much experience is there in the project, to what extent do the employees have project management understanding etc.? If necessary, the project assistant redistributes tasks.
A project assistant is also responsible for the Who-Is-Who of the project. He informs the team about the organizational units involved in the project. If available, he informs all employees about the members of the project core team and announces contact persons.
He informs the team about holiday arrangements, training courses and other absences. In addition, the project assistant determines means of communication and tools to be used.
At the start of a project, hundreds of work units are usually wasted on setting up the IT infrastructure. In a chaotic mess, team members search for access codes, software licenses, and appropriate hardware.
One of the tasks of a project assistant is to maintain an overview. He ensures that the right hardware and software are provided to the employees. He also has access to the access codes and thus simplifies the entry into the project for all team members.
In addition, one of the tasks of the project assistant is to structure the handling of the document storage system. It also ensures uniform use of the agreed means of communication. He is also responsible for archiving communication.
The larger a project, the more comprehensive and clearer the communication. Keeping the overview here alone far exceeds the capacities of a project manager. A project assistant offers indispensable support here.
Project assistance also takes over tasks in the area of budget and resource controlling:
First, it monitors the personnel resources: it records the availability of the project employees and evaluates the personnel costs.
Together with the project management, she decides on the need for external specialists. If new positions need to be filled or defined in the project, it creates project and job descriptions and drafts requirement profiles.
It helps with general cost planning. He also differentiates between sub-projects, work blocks and work packages. The project assistant keeps an eye on the activities of external service providers and takes over invoice control. A project assistant is responsible for manageable expenses.
This efficient controlling brings transparency to the cost situation. This helps the project management to make decisions about investments.
Communication and filter function
In addition to organisational tasks, project assistance also takes on project communication tasks.
Communication in projects should above all ensure the involvement of all stakeholders and enable efficient project work. The relevance of successful project communication cannot be overestimated.
It is not for nothing that poor communication is repeatedly highlighted by studies as one of the most important success-critical factors of projects.
A study by GPM in cooperation with Cetacea comes to the conclusion that project managers like to communicate extensively in the project, but mainly want to inform and motivate. However, a clear formulation of the project assignment would often be neglected. A project assistant offers great communication support.
On the OpenPM portal there is a detailed article on the topic of project communication. One of the core statements on successful project communication is the following:
A company [can] only communicate successfully […] if communication is supported by a wide variety of organizational measures. In order to fulfill a uniform communication program, it is important to organize the most different departments of a company in such a way that a functional cooperation of the individual communication partners is guaranteed.
This communication with the project team can be one of the core tasks of a project assistant. As a kind of government spokesman, he also announces the decisions of the project management and ensures that they are implemented.
Conversely, he also filters enquiries to the project management and arranges them according to priority. Those that he cannot process himself are passed on to the project management.
The ambassador function therefore functions reciprocally: not only the decisions of the project management are to be implemented promptly. Also legitimate and urgent inquiries of the team members are promoted by the project assistant. Also interesting: Project assistant as communicative interface in the project.
A good project assistant occupies an ambivalent position in the project: On the one hand, he is the first point of contact for the project staff. He ensures that necessities are met on all sides.
On the other hand, it is the explicit task of a project assistant to promote sluggish developments. As the right hand of project management, his core task is to pursue what has been decided and communicated.
Thus, project assistance is also responsible for personnel management tasks.
The project manager is responsible for guiding the team to perform tasks in the best possible way. The project assistant ensures that this happens smoothly and as quickly as possible.
The project assistant must therefore be a kind of calf biter, but must not lack the necessary social skills. This requires the situational application of leadership skills. These in turn require a lot of experience.
In addition to classic management tasks, project assistance also takes on tasks such as leading and organizing meetings:
Together with the project manager, the project assistant first creates the agenda. He then invites the project team members to a meeting, creates presentations and takes over the implementation and moderation of the project meeting. He is also responsible for the follow-up of the meeting in the form of minutes and documentation of the results.
At the end of the project, the project assistant conducts the Post Implementation Review (PIR). In this meeting, points of the project that have run well and badly are evaluated. The project assistant also documents the lessons learned.
After project completion, the Project Assistant also ensures that team members are issued, archives all documents and ensures that they are handed over to the customer. Project Assistant or PMO – All Differences at a Glance
Project assistants offer indispensable support in project management. They increase efficiency in projects and make project work noticeably easier. Organization, administration and controlling are among their core tasks.
However, the job also requires social competence and leadership qualities. As an interface between project team and project management, project assistants also improve communication. In this way, they ensure a successful project start and guarantee faster project completion.
In the project, the project assistant takes on tasks from a wide variety of areas. This improves the results, saves time and money and relieves the project management.