Day in and day out I work on projects. Managing them properly is crucial. For us, it’s about customer satisfaction. For me, it’s about my reputation and because it’s just the right thing. Why do something poorly when it can be good?

Considering how many are involved in projects on a daily basis, it is surprising how utterly poor we are at managing them. Two reasons I believe are that we don’t place enough of a value in project management, and that we constantly fail to understand someone else’s point of view.

Project management needs behavioral insight

Let me explain. Far too often I see someone being appointed into a project management role as a sort of junior general-purpose role. It is short-changing the value of the profession.

A true project manager understands people. She faces differing expectations from different stakeholders. She has the difficult task of coming as close as possible to please everyone. A task requiring behavioral insight.

Real project managers know their subject too

Then there is the matter of subject expertise. A project manager needs to understand the subject. Period. Yet far too often I see project managers that don’t understand the area which her colleagues are working in. And worse, doesn’t care to learn it.

By far, this is the most dangerous. It’s damaging to both projects as a whole, and to workplace morale. When the project manager, the facilitator and supposed helper cannot genuinely understand, weight and negotiate the requirements, expectations and realities of a project, it is doomed to fail before it started.

It’s time the role of project managers get valued greater. In far too many organizations, surrounding employees think of the project manager as a nuisance rather than a facilitator and asset. If we don’t change this, the outlook and success of our projects are far darker than they need to be.

I will confess to lying a bit in the title today right now. Everything I knew isn’t wrong. But before you dismiss this as another clickbait article, hear me out.

I think. A lot. For most situations I have imagined plenty of possible (and impossible…) scenarios. After gaining a few experiences, I usually find myself feeling as though I’ve figured something out. That I now know something for sure about how I view and feel about that something.

Fast forward a few days, weeks, months or years. Guess what. Everything has changed. What I believed I knew has changed. I find myself wondering how I could have ever thought what I did.

Of course, this is the way life always is. It’s part of the charm. Nowadays, I remind myself of this simple fact. Rarely do I speak with such great conviction about how things are, or are going to be. Because it changes. Your experiences changes you. And when they do, everything you thought you knew about your life is wrong, and you now know what is actually right. Except, there in the near future, it will all happen again.

Last week, I got an email from my buddy Sebastian who heads the Goethe Unibator at the Goethe-Universit├Ąt in Frankfurt where I’m an advisor. He asked for some help in judging the companies who entered for the Goethe Innovation Prize to be awarded on September 6th.

Sitting down reviewing the short summary letters and pitch presentation from the ten different companies, I was faced with some seriously difficult decisions. First, I had to make up my mind on what for me qualifies as innovative.

Many of the companies who have entered have some very strong business models. They, and the people behind them impress me. And that isn’t always easy.

A few of them are even doing what I personally love. They are taking a classic business model and using technology and digital tools to enhance it and delivering a better customer experience. It should then come as no surprise that they are showing some pretty impressive figures too.

But is this innovation? In a sense, of course. They are doing something new in at least their geographical market. Yet part of me says no. It’s the part that actually want something more radical to win. Taking a classic business model, recognizing its flaws and improving it requires skill, there’s no doubt about it. But doing something brand new, that is another ballgame.

What did I end up with? I’m forced to say the latter. I’m giving my loudest praise to the smart and excellent companies with excellent strategies. But I am giving my votes to the truly innovative and ground-breaking. For after all, isn’t that what an innovation prize should award?

Last week, I was helping a client structure their new project who will have a few involved parties. Who these are is irrelevant. I’m not trying to point fingers at anyone.

What I realized when doing this, is how many agencies are being far too careless with client data. My prime example in web development, is when the agency has a one master account to the website, with a dead simple password.

This presents several security issues.

First and most obvious, it is a dead simple password “for convenience”. Shouldn’t we be the ones advocating good password security?

Second and less obvious is the fact that we don’t actually know who has access. When creating such a structure, these master passwords are often shared between projects (again for convenience), but they are rarely changed.

I’ve seen countless of examples of employees at agencies and consultancies who have quit, but still have access because they know the password.

In the industry, we should be ashamed.

These are just a couple of examples and one scenario, but I see this more and more now. Working on open WiFi with client data being transmitted freely (yes, please do use a VPN) is another big one.

It is hard, because it’s a workflow change. At Bernskiold Media, I’m doing my best to ensure that we have a decent security mindset. While I say this, I know we still have a long way to go.

Frankly though, the industry needs to stop being so lazy and start minding the security and safety of not only the systems we have access to and/or build, but the always confidential data we get access to as well. And this needs to be done yesterday.

As I’m writing this, I just came off a call with a client where we discussed a proposal to help them with some social media marketing. Opening the proposal, the client instantly remarked on how nice it looked, and how incredibly well that online proposal looked. He wasn’t the first.

I confess. The solution that we’ve put together is pretty neat and professional. I love it. But what’s most important so do the clients. So much in fact, that they routinely comment on it.

The system itself isn’t what’s important here. It is that we have taken the time to smoothen the proposal phase, and have a clear process that we firmly believe in. We have tools in place to make it easier for all of us.

Every time a client makes this comment about how nice they find our proposal system (almost buying that system too), I am reminded about how these relatively small things continue to impress. They build a positive image of the company. They help the client feel that we are taking care of them professionally.

It doesn’t stop with a technical solution. Be it offices, branding materials, IT/tech or anything else, it all goes towards showing that you are professional. That you take your job seriously. And ultimately, that’s what you want to know when hiring somebody for a project.