Is your project focused on the customer?
Are you continually caught out by your technical projects not delivering? Technically complex projects can be all consuming and quickly drift off course. This is where the skill, experience and balanced focus of the Project Manager may be crucial to the success of your project.
Using the very simple diagram below to help explain;
A strong focus on technical matters in a technically complex project may be legitimate. The risk is that the technical desire to solve all issues and potential to move outside the scope can be intoxicating for a technically focussed team.
Persistent focus on technical detail and issues will increase the risk of project failure.
A strong focus on administrative issues in a technically complex project can become extremely frustrating. There will be a desire to control the project, meet commercial objectives etc. With a project demanding more and more time and resources, with little in the way of firm ETC’s, the project can quickly loose credibility with the customer.
Persistent focus on administrative detail, that may not be reliable, will increase the risk of project failure.
To get to the point, the customer may not really care about on-going technical niggles. Ultimately, a contract has been agreed for a deliverable. That said, in most technically demanding projects with uncertain outcomes, providing expectations and risks have been addressed at the project outset, then the customer is likely to be understanding of difficulties. Of course, these issues need managed as the customer is likely have their own schedule to meet.
The customer wants ASSURANCE that the project will be delivered on an agreed date and budget, which may have been changed throughout the project.
Using the diagram above, how can an organisation help assure that the project will be successful?
The calibre and experience of the PM is crucial
The PM MUST be able to bring alignment in team focus between administrative and technical demands. Opinions will differ in whether there should be a technical or commercially experienced PM. The pros and cons of each can and will be continually debated. The lowest risk option is to deploy an experienced PM who can comfortably, nimbly and assertively deal with complexity and uncertainty. The key is to be able to take in data, comprehend, assess, prioritise and manage an action plan, whilst being able to engage with the client with both CONFIDENCE & ASSURANCE. An astute customer will see right through a lack of congruence.
It may be important to consider the cost / value trade off with regards to the selection of a PM. A lowest cost model, recruiting inexperienced PM’s and such like could be a realistic model, especially if they can be supervised or mentored by more seasoned professionals. However, this needs balanced with the criticality of the project and the potential for significant overruns, losing a customer and missing a market opportunity. The additional cost of reducing the risk through deploying a more costly PM could be outweighed by a significant multiple.
Simple recommendations :
Assess potential projects at proposal stage. If the project is determined as critical, it warrants “flash” reporting to the MD or COO/CEO.
Develop an execution methodology that aligns with the project complexity and uncertainty.
Make communication and client reporting a priority.
Assign an appropriate PM to safely execute the project. Do not rely on an “availability” list. Be realistic, most of your more competent internal PM’s rarely tend to be available.
Don’t rely on project control methodologies and what SHOULD happen. Ensure that the team dynamics support collaboration, mutual understanding and common goals.