Your ability to keep scope, people and schedules on track can make or break a project. With all these moving parts, it’s crucial your project managers stay one step ahead of the game.
Below, we look at five key areas that can help you achieve successful project management:
- Choose the right person for the job
- Define the project scope
- Focus on stakeholder management
- Hold regular meetings and stick to them
- Take ownership of your customer relationships
Choose the right person for the job
When a project kicks off, you need to find the right people for the tasks at hand. They must have the necessary experience to successfully manage the project and not just be the person who happens to be available at the moment. They also need to be able to adapt to today’s changing landscape of remote working and be comfortable with managing virtual project execution teams.
Professional services automation (PSA) software can help support this by:
- Helping you understand which resources and skills are available at any one time
- Helping you understand which resources and skills are needed at any one time
- Giving you a complete overview of project activity
- Removing siloes and ensuring disparate teams are connected to each other despite location
You’ll also be able to combine all aspects of your project-centric business into a single location. This gives you a snapshot view of your current/upcoming project assignments, allows you to track project progress and more.
Define the project scope
Spend time defining the scope of the project before you start any work. If a different team defined the project, then make sure you re-examine the scope and include:
- Specific tasks
- Critical deadlines
- An end goal
Tools like KPIs (key performance indicators) are quantifiable measures that can be set out for projects and help you:
- Easily measure targets – KPIs show how close (or far) you are from achieving your targets
- Encourage accountability from your team – KPIs gives you measurable proof of employee performance (good or bad)
- Improve team morale – a good KPI system helps you track employee satisfaction and regularly reward them when they hit targets
- Spot patterns over time – by measuring the same KPIs over each quarter, you can identify patterns in your data
- Solve problems/tackle opportunities – use KPIs to validate your business model before launching it on a bigger scale e.g. monitor number of customers interested in your new service
This allows your project managers to push back against scope creep or unrealistic deadlines. A clearly defined scope helps you keep everyone on track and heading for the same schedule and end goal.
Focus on stakeholder management
A stakeholder is anybody who’s affected by the results of your project plan. It can be tricky to manage these successfully due to conflicting objectives, which is why it’s important you have a change management strategy in place. For example, your CFO may want a new IT system that costs the least, while your IT team may want a system with the most powerful functionalities.
Here are some examples of stakeholders and how you could manage their expectations:
Collect as much knowledge as you can. Gathering data on their needs, culture, business pains and then detailing it all before project execution starts will help when conflicts arise. For example, customer data will show if they’re on track for success and you can take the necessary follow up actions to keep them on course.
Get their buy-in in from the very beginning. For example, involving your project execution team when building the project plan and schedule is a great way to get them onside early.
Important areas you need to agree on with your team include:
- The scope of the project and who’s responsible for each piece
- The skills required for all of the project work
- How you’ll determine when each package of work is complete
- When the project is expected to be successfully completed
- The risks associated with the project and how you’ll mitigate them if they arise
These are areas which the full project team should agree on before a project begins to avoid any misunderstanding down the line.
Team buy-in isn’t enough – you need someone at the top of your organisation to take ownership and show support for the project. Gain executive buy-in by answering the “what’s in it for me?” question.
The easier it is for them to see the benefits and engage with the project, the more likely it is they’ll buy-in to it. But your work doesn’t stop here – executives may:
- Change their minds after buying into the project
- Be seconded to a different project
- Leave the company
All of which means you’ll have to work on engaging new people. This is why you need to constantly establish and promote your change vision. This could be using rich pictures and journey map to bring your vision to life or working closely with process owners and key stakeholders to align mindsets.
Hold regular meetings and stick to them
You need to do more than send occasional emails or only communicate when there’s an issue. Organise short daily meetings or a weekly update meeting and insist everyone attends either in person or virtually. This helps:
- Keep everyone on the same page
- Prevents assumptions that an important piece of information has reached everyone in your team
- Identify issues before they become large problems
The transition to remote working has placed added emphasis on effective communication because teams are no longer sitting next to each other eight hours a day, five days a week. So, find the right tools that can help your teams stay connected when they’re apart.
With Microsoft Teams, for example, you can chat, jump on a group meeting, call a colleague and collaborate in other ways. A new standout feature of Teams is called ‘together mode’ . This functionality uses AI technology to digitally place your teams in a shared background, making it feel like they’re sitting in the same room.
This feature may not suit every team, but it can help bring together your employees who prefer a more social experience.
Take ownership of your customer relationships
Your project managers need to maintain the lead when managing your projects and customers. This includes:
- Setting accurate expectations
- Protecting your team from work overload/scope creep
- Maintaining regular customer communication
If not managed correctly, your other team members may feel like they need to step in and try and make up for any shortcomings. This can lead to conflicting or confusing information for your clients.
With PSA tools, you can consolidate your data from multiple sources to give you a digestible overview of your projects and resources. This helps you ensure workloads are evenly distributed and quickly understand how projects are progressing so you can make more informed business decisions on the spot.
PSA solutions also allow you to give more autonomy to your customers (e.g. let them check the progress of a project via user-friendly dashboards) which improves their experiences with you. Other features like AI-driven suggestions let you personalise customer communications.
It’s time to focus on how you can achieve business agility
There’s always going be unforeseen roadblocks that can cause your projects to be delayed. But by increasing your agility, you can be ready to adapt (and even thrive) in the ever changing business landscape.
In our checklist, we cover the key areas to achieving business agility in the professional services industry.
Download it below.