Written by Brad Egeland
Can we guarantee project success and quality every time out? No…Unfortunately that would be pie-in-the-sky thinking. But we can certainly stick to best practices and logical choices and aim for that target every time out. In the real world too many variables are in play – some outside of the control of the project manager and team – to ensure that a successful project is delivered every time. We try to get as close to it as possible because it is our goal to have happy customers. Satisfied customers who refer us to others and keep coming back for more are what build our project management practices and businesses into successful organizations.
Again, there are no guarantees. However, by following this three step process you can ensure that you’re doing everything you can to provide a quality client engagement experience to your customer. That, combined with some close issue and risk management gets you as close as you can be to ‘guaranteeing’ that you’ll have a successful engagement and a satisfied customer.
From my experience and what I’ve observed from colleagues’ projects, three key practices involve…
Fully identifying what needs to be accomplished from the start. Planning is critical in any engagement or project. Failing to include enough planning time can kill a project almost before it’s started. Spend enough time – and plan to spend enough time – up front in the project to fully document the work to be accomplished before that work is started. Two things will come from this. 1) You’ll have possibly another deliverable…the project plan or statement of work…that you can bill for thus generating more project revenue for the organization and 2) you’ll have official agreement from your customer that you’re on the same page and you’ll know you are working on the ‘right’ issues and not just symptoms of another problem.
Once you’ve documented the work to be done – turn it into a project schedule with the detailed tasks that will be needed to complete the project using a project management software tool such as Project Insight and track all progress through this schedule.
Use your project management office to support the project. If you have a project management office (PMO) in place, use it to the fullest to support the project, the project manager, the team and the customer. If anything stands in the way of a project moving forward and slowing down service to a project client, the PMO should work effectively on behalf of that project to remove roadblocks, bring extra necessary resources to the project – even temporarily, if necessary – or to provide show of support to ensure the project client retains confidence in the project manager and delivery organization’s ability to successfully deliver on the end solution for the project.
Stick to weekly project updates no matter how slow the project may be moving. The project should be run like a formal project no matter what size it is. Use your chosen online project management software tool to document the project schedule. The project may be short and may just involve a few tasks or it may be very large and involve a full team on both sides. At the very least plan to provide a weekly update that is produced in a standardized format. It may just be an email template that you fill in each week with progress info for very small projects and it will likely be a very formal status report and weekly formal status call for larger and more visible projects. They key is to do it and follow through with it. Never become complacent. Because some engagements move along with minimal visible progress for a while. You don’t want the client to wonder what’s going on because nothing good comes from that. Put something in front of that customer every week that shows what you’re working on, what progress you and your team have made, and any issues that you’re working on. Better yet, if you can figure out some action item to give them in that report, you’ll be engaging them and that’s usually a good thing. And don’t neglect the critical task of updating project progress in the project schedule using your web-based project management software tool and provide the client with a copy of that revised schedule every week during the engagement.
Summary / call for input
The key is to keep the customer well informed throughout the project process. They like that. And use your PMO and PMO director to help the project along – that is what they are there for. Document the entire planned project effort and what’s to be accomplished up front and get sign off and concurrence from the client. Provide weekly status updates. Provide final documentation and reports. Don’t omit information just to keep an ‘in’ with the client for future needs. Let your performance ‘excellence’ be the reason they call you back.
What about our readers? What are your thoughts on these points and what would you add to this list?
about Brad Egeland
Brad Egeland is a Business Solution Designer and IT/PM consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Creative Design, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is married, a father of 11, and living in sunny Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad’s site at http://www.bradegeland.com