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From junior consultant to principal – who takes on which tasks in the project?

A project is a business for a certain period of time. It has its own project organization consisting of different rules, roles, experience levels and communication structures. Due to complex project tasks as well as budget and time restrictions, the organization must not be neglected under any circumstances and must ensure a clear definition of tasks and responsibilities as well as a clear demarcation from the line organization. This is the only way to ensure cost- and time-efficient project progress. There are many different approaches to setting up the project organization and implementing the project – but what is inevitable is the use of employees across different levels of experience. This allows the distribution of tasks and responsibilities to employees with the appropriate level of experience. This makes the processing of tasks more effective and efficient in terms of time and costs. This article shows the different levels of experience that project management and consulting offer in the course of a career and the exciting tasks and responsibilities that are associated with them in the context of project work.

Junior Consultant

Let’s start with the junior consultant. If you decide to become a consultant directly after completing your education, the first stack of your business cards will usually contain the role title “Junior Consultant”. Candidates from other disciplines also often start out as juniors, even though they may have already had a few years of practical experience.
In the role as a junior, you provide direct support on customer projects and thus learn the prevailing contexts from the ground up. At digatus, junior consultants already assume a great deal of responsibility and leading roles in the project. In addition to exciting tasks in the Project Management Office, such as project planning, controlling and reporting, as well as gathering and analyzing customer requirements, juniors are also often placed directly in project positions with a lot of responsibility.

“As project manager of a project in the Public Sector, I coordinate and lead the project team, ensure the achievement and quality of upcoming tasks and report directly to the steering group.”

Rhea Funke – Junior Consultant at digatus

In addition to a wide range of technical skills, you will also improve your soft skills during your assignment in the respective project. An important one is flexibility, because a typical week of a junior consultant is marked by ad hoc tasks and variable customer requirements in addition to a number of fixed coordination appointments. In addition, skills in presentation, customer orientation as well as goal-oriented team cooperation are strongly advanced by responsible tasks.

Consultant

After several years of experience and further development, the promotion to Consultant follows. During your time at digatus, your skills will be further refined through project experience and training, especially in the areas of technical understanding, professional know-how, industry knowledge, customer relations, and an efficient, structured, and flexible way of working.
Similar to the Junior Consultant, the Consultant will be responsible for reporting, tracking, budgeting, conceptualization, and management tasks. However, due to the experience gained, a deeper understanding of business management and specialist expertise, more responsibility is assigned here compared to the junior and correspondingly more independence is assumed. Of course, with increasing responsibility, the range of tasks expands in comparison to the junior. For example, the topic of risk management often plays a major role in the consultant’s day-to-day work. The risks must not only be assessed and evaluated. Rather, these must be recognized and targeted countermeasures taken.

In addition to taking on technical tasks in the project, the consultant is also responsible for another digatus-internal area of responsibility. As part of the digatus mentoring program, consultants take on the role of mentor for juniors, dual students and bachelor’s/master’s students and, as experienced colleagues, provide advice and support for their career development. Through the role as mentor, the consultant already has his or her first leadership roles, which strengthens social and interpersonal skills.

The consultant’s typical project week can be described with one keyword: varied. Between some fixed status meetings, the week is characterized by ad hoc topics that always have to be dealt with in a structured way and using the appropriate professional skills. A strong customer orientation should be the basis for this.

Senior Consultant / Project manager

Successful project references and (partial) project management qualify for the next career level – senior consultant or project manager. At digatus, you are the face to our customers from the very first second in all phases of the project lifecycle and contribute decisively to the success of challenging projects in the IT context. As a senior project manager or consultant, you will act as the interface between the customer and the internal specialist colleagues and coordinate customer wishes, project requirements and the project team in a targeted manner. You take the customer’s requirements, are always in close contact and develop the customer-optimal solution. At the senior level, your responsibilities include setting the overall workstream strategy and direction in the project. This includes the definition of project goals, project planning and the optimal composition of the project team for operational project implementation.

In addition to the classic project management tasks that arise during the supervision and monitoring of the project, such as the synchronization of the often parallel sub-projects, project controlling and reporting to the responsible persons in management and steering groups also represent central components.
During the implementation of the projects, depending on the requirements of the project and the specialist skills, further tasks include, for example, the selection of suitable technologies for the realignment or the reorganization of business processes in collaboration with the specialist departments – always with a view to the successful fulfillment of the project objectives.

A typical week as a senior is predominantly characterized by technical and planning coordination, as well as team meetings to derive status reports and synchronization.
In general, it can be said that compared to the previous experience levels, the areas of tasks and responsibilities are significantly more far-reaching and of a more strategic nature.

Manager

As a manager at digatus, you will be responsible for the holistic planning, implementation and budget control of projects. In doing so, you will represent the interests and requirements of the customer, act as the first point of contact in a dedicated area of expertise, and ensure ongoing contact with customers and partners. As a manager, you independently acquire projects and negotiate contracts on your own responsibility. Due to the closer customer contact and the increase in leadership responsibility compared to the previous levels, strong empathic and rhetorical skills are therefore a “must” for the manager. These social skills are complemented on the professional side by deep industry knowledge, expertise in a specific field, and in-depth project management experience.

In summary, it can be said that the manager’s area of tasks and responsibilities is characterized by a strong sales orientation due to the very intensive and proactive customer contact in addition to classic project management tasks.

Principal

The top of the professional career ladder at digatus is the Principal. The scope of duties and responsibilities at principal level is predominantly strategic in nature, in addition to occasional operational activities. It’s about identifying vulnerabilities on behalf of the customer, developing appropriate strategies, and presenting them confidently at the CxO level. The focus here is less on an in-depth examination of the topics and more on a broad understanding of IT in the areas of applications and infrastructure through to problems in the areas of compliance, governance and organizational development.
In addition to this long-term and above all strategic approach, our colleague Thomas Kollmansperger describes the role of the principal as follows:

“As a principal, a good understanding of human nature is paramount. This role is less about technology and more about people business.”

Thomas Kollmansperger – Principal at digatus

The principal is therefore a charismatic and professional leader who is highly respected by his or her colleagues. The management responsibility is characterized, among other things, by the training of project management personnel and a project assignment of the employees according to their wishes and competencies.

Conclusion

In summary, it can be said that in the course of a professional career, the range of tasks and responsibilities expands significantly as a result of the project experience gained and a better understanding of business management. As responsibility increases, another effect can be observed. The character of the task is changing from strongly operational – at junior level – to an increasingly strategic character with technical and human leadership responsibility.

Alexander Dürst

Alexander Dürst
With over 20 years of professional experience in various industries as a consultant and project manager as well as in various management positions, he uses his know-how to lead complex projects in the corporate environment and in medium-sized businesses to success. In doing so, he is an advocate of pragmatic and efficient solutions. His focus is on program and project management as well as management consulting on business and IT processes.

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