Steve Brace, the newest member of the AlfaPeople UK team, has over 20 years’ experience in managing projects. We sat down with Steve to discuss the key to successful project delivery and, while we were at it, learned a little bit more about this avid amateur photographer.
Tell us about your career so far and how you came to AlfaPeople.
I’ve been a project manager for around 20 years but I haven’t always worked in technology – I worked for an engineering company a long time ago and have worked as a project manager in the construction industry as well. But more recently I specialised in working with ERP projects, successfully delivering applications to users, and the last 4 projects I’ve worked on have been specific to Microsoft Dynamics.
I’ve also worked on both the client side and supply side as well, so I have experienced projects from both angles. Whilst the underlying job of ‘Project Manager’ is the same, the two role types are inevitably subtly different; if you are client side you are mainly focused on the outcome, whilst on the delivery side you are more concerned with ensuring you are delivering the right resources to the job and ensuring profit levels are maintained. And of course, on the delivery side you are often responsible for multiple projects as opposed to the client side where you may be PM for one single project, or even just one small part of a much larger project.
My IT project management work has spanned a number of sectors too – my last project was with RNLI which rolled out Dynamics in 2017 but were experiencing a lack of engagement from those responsible for maintaining the vehicles, vessels and buildings; my project was to find out why that was and ultimately to get them reengaged.
What are your main responsibilities in the new role at AlfaPeople?
Working on two big projects initially, my focus will be to ensure our team are used efficiently and effectively and to act as a go-between between the two organisations. My job and that of my PM counterparts at the other companies is to keep communications flowing and resolve issues. Most of project management is about communication – the situation can get very complex; on one of our biggest projects is that we are already dealing with around 20,000 documents – that will probably rise to about 100,000 by the end. Most projects go wrong because of bad communication (or a lack of communication) so it’s so important to keep communication flowing.
Having said that, one of my biggest priorities when dealing with so much minute detail that you need to dig into – I can get over 200 emails per day – is to focus on the important information, differentiating and prioritising it over the rest of the peripheral info.
What are you most looking forward to about your new role?
When I start a project, people are always convinced that the particular project is different or unique in some way, but the projects are often of course very similar. However, what is interesting is getting to know and understand the way that different teams manage the project – the dynamics between the different team members and how they interact. Some things are always the same – invoicing processes, purchasing and financial processes, professional service management processes are always there – and Dynamics caters for these fantastically, but what is fascinating is being able to uncover what makes people tick and getting the best out of them. Whilst you do need solid methodology and tools to do a great job it’s often the soft skills which really make things happen.
If you weren’t working in this industry, what other job would you like to do?
I’d probably like to be a photographer – I dabble in photography as a hobby and I find it both challenging and relaxing at the same time. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, so I imagine one day I’ll take a photo which I’m proud to put on the wall.
What are your interests outside of work?
I really like gardening and walking. My partner has two springer spaniels so we really like walking them together.