What do you do about these types of customers? As the PM, how do you show your value or do your best to keep the customer satisfied throughout the project engagement? From my experience with these types of customers and stakeholders, there are five key ways that the project manager can show definite value to the project for the project team, the project customer/sponsor, and executive management.
Stay out of the way. This one is fairly straightforward. By stay out of the way, I mean just that…only do what you have to do to keep the project moving forward productively. This should not be common practice. However, there are those customers out there – and I’ve encountered a few of them – who do not see much value in a high-priced project manager running the engagement. When you have one of these types of customers, you must do your best to show value while at the same time do your best to cost the project as little as possible. Don’t travel when you can just send one developer on site. Watch the amount of hours you charge to the project every week. Steer clear of excessive meetings. Keep costs down…period.
Add technical oversight and effort where needed. If you’re the project manager and you bring some technical skills to the table, use those when possible to fill in gaps. I was onsite with my team at one major airline customer for a software install and I found myself doing data loads between meetings because our team was small and our time was short. It helped and we were able to meet our deadline for deployment.
Gain visibility for the project. Act as the ambassador for your project. Want to make the customer feels more important? Lobby your project to senior management and get them involved. A visit by the CEO or some other high ranking individual in your organization at a future project status meeting will let the customer know the project is important to your company and that they are an important customer who is being taken seriously. If you have recently experienced any issues that have resulted in some customer frustration, this can go along way in mending the situation.
Provide detailed budget management. Close budget management should seem like a no-brainer, but so many project managers do this poorly. It’s your client’s money and if you make it a priority to closely track it and reforecast it and report on it continually throughout the project you’ll be ensuring that your project never gets far off track financially without it being known to everyone. Your customer will see the value in that oversight and feel much more comfortable with the project and how their money is being spent on project resources if they are included in that reporting process.
Track risks carefully. This is another area that seems logical, but is often overlooked. Some risks are usually identified upfront and then set aside as if the process is over. Instead of going that dangerous route, include a section in the weekly project status report for risk management. If risks are constantly in front of the team and the customer and even better – actually assigned to team members to keep track of – then the likelihood of something unexpected bringing the project to a halt is greatly decreased.
Summary / call for input
The bottom line is this...we must continually show value throughout the project relationship with these individuals so as to maintain the highest level of customer confidence and satisfaction. Readers – have you ever been in this situation? What did you do and how do you agree with this list?