Project administrators are a special breed; in addition to the usual admin skills of meeting scheduling, minute taking, processing information and keeping track of documents, they often have a detailed specialist knowledge of the world of projects. But sometimes they don’t realise their own worth, especially if they’ve come from an ordinary business department and been seconded onto a project or programme.
As a project administrator, you have skills that are in high demand in Programme Management Offices (PMOs) and on projects. The more skills you can add, the more your worth will increase. So it’s worth bearing this in mind when you get an appraisal or a training offer, or when you’re looking for a new job. Let’s look at the key skills.
Running the project diary
Complex projects can have multiple meetings, product demonstrations, workshops and presentations - and they all need organising. This is a more demanding job than in a normal business unit because you may have a mix of permanent employees, contractors, suppliers, temporary employees and people seconded to the project. There may be business partners and others to include. Simply collecting the email addresses and contact details at the start of the project can be quite a task; but one for which the project team will be extremely grateful.
Assisting with planning
No one will expect you to set up a project plan, or even maintain it. But provided that you’re not scared of project software, you’ll be able to help by putting in a set of edits to the plan, or changing who is assigned to a task. Ask for training if you find this daunting. And don’t forget that if you don’t know how to do something, your team is full of people who do!
Maintaining the logs
Larger projects and PMOs will have set procedures for managing risks, documenting changes and so forth. These processes will use standard documents and the project administrator usually manages these, adding entries as directed by the project manager or the head of the PMO.
Projects produce lots and lots of documents. Presentations, plans, briefing notes, reports, minutes and more. With a diverse team, lots of things need to be agreed and formally recorded. It’s your job to set up a structure so that people can find the information they need. Project administrators also check that team members have added dates and versions to their documents. The project or programme may have a shared online space, and in that case, you’ll probably be posting the latest information on it and letting the project team know it’s there.
Dealing with payments and invoices
The project manager, or the cost engineer on a large project, will run the budget. However, a project is really a self-contained business, so there will be expense claims and invoices that have to be logged, signed off, entered into the accounts system and so on.
Helping with reporting
The project manager may ask you to pull together some information that they will subsequently use in their reports to the client. In a PMO, you may have a monthly task to collate data that will go to management.
There are many other tasks too; because each project is different, what needs to be done can differ. Project administrators have to be ready to adapt to what needs doing each day, so they tend to be people who are adaptable and flexible and can cope when the project office is very busy. It helps to be outgoing because projects always involve meeting new people.
We’ll look later at what training you can get, and what kinds of jobs are available. But for people with the right skills, this is a well-paid role with lots of variety, challenge and potential