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A Day in the Life of an IT Project Manager

A Day in the Life of an IT Project Manager

This is a guest contribution from IT Project Manager, Elizabeth Harrin, from the blog


Ever wondered what it was like to work as a project manager? Well, there’s no such thing as a typical day. Whether you are contracting or permanent, in whatever industry, each day as a project manager can bring surprises and challenges.

But you still want to know what an average day could be, don’t you? Here’s my behind the scenes diary for just one of these unpredictable but real days at the office.

7.45am. I arrive at my desk. I don’t have to be in so early, but I enjoy getting ahead for the day and having time before the rest of the team arrives to plan what needs to get done.

8.45am. I have a project board meeting at 9am, so I make sure I have all the papers that I need.

Many of my colleagues work electronically, taking minutes as they go on a laptop, but I have never got into the habit of doing that. I prefer to take notes on paper and then type them up. This gives me the opportunity to review what was discussed and gain some   clarity from the chaos in my notebook.

9am.The project board meeting begins. We’re quite early on in formulating this project and the first discussion is around the project scope. We consider some queries around the initial documentation and whether each individual task is in the most appropriate work stream. Plus I get some confirmation around when people are going to do things, which will all help me build out a high level Gantt chart for the follow up meeting.

10.30am. I am late to my next meeting as the project board overran. I am managing two projects at the moment and this next meeting is with my other project sponsor. Luckily, he’s fine about it.

It’s quite hard switching from one project to another, but this project has been going for a while and I know it really well. We talk about a major database issue that has happened this week. Generally, when there’s an issue I don’t like saying that we can’t do anything. In IT, with enough money and time we can find a resolution. However, this is a system change with huge operational implications so as well as the technical stuff I’m also considering the impact of the business change, and that’s where the pressure is. In the end, it’s his decision and I can only advise what is most likely to be acceptable to end users, practical and cost-effective to build.

At 11am the project sponsor has to go to another meeting, so I pass by my manager’s office to check in and say hi.

Back at my desk I catch up on emails from the morning and send a few myself regarding information I’ve been asked for over the past few hours. Then I spend some time working through the major database issue so that I can really get to grips with what is going on

12.15pm. Time for a bit of lunch. I try to get out of the office just to get some fresh air, so I walk to the sandwich shop to buy something to eat.

1pm. I quickly review my ‘To Do’ list and realise that I haven’t prepared the agenda and project dashboard for a meeting next week. I get that ready to send, but I’m interrupted by a colleague asking me about an dispute on a project that was closed several years ago!

I go through my email archive to see what the conversations were at the time and manage to find something that will help her.

I take some calls – one from the legal team, others from my project team members. They are all quick, and they all keep the project moving, but together they take up time.

3pm. I’m in an internal meeting, chaired by the Project Office, with a number of senior leaders and project and programme managers. The purpose is to look over the strategic projects and ensure we understand current dependencies. A lot of the technical work has overlaps in other areas, or on similar customer groups, so it’s important that the whole thing is looked at in the round. I do speak to my fellow project and programme managers on a regular basis but this forum is a good for making sure everything is transparent.

4.45pm. I leave for the train. At the station I return a phone call from an unhappy project stakeholder. I’ve sent out some information which I can stand by, but he feels should be showing a different picture. It’s not actually his area so neither he nor I can particularly influence the data. We agree to bring this up at the project steering group next week.

On the train I review the emails I didn’t get a chance to respond to. There’s nothing that can’t wait until I’m back from my short break. I will check my emails later that evening too, and put on my out of office message so people know where I am and when I will be back.

It has been a varied, but average day. A lot of the time has been taken up with stakeholder meetings and talking to my team members, clarifying complex problems for people and making a multitude of small decisions that help keep my projects on track. I haven’t specifically looked at my project schedules once, but I have been managing my projects all day.

That’s what being a successful project manager is all about. You are the point of contact when problems or concerns arise, you deal with tasks that no one else knows how to address or are willing to delve into, and most importantly, you make sure everything keeps ticking away in the background towards the end goal.


Elizabeth Harrin has over fifteen years’ experience in leading IT, business change and process improvement projects in the UK and France. Today she works in healthcare and also runs her own company providing copywriting services to project-related businesses. Elizabeth is the author of four books and the award-winning blogger behind Find Elizabeth on Twitter @girlsguidetopm.

This is an edited extract from Elizabeth’s book, Project Manager: Careers in IT Project Management (publishing in June 2018).

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