- Efficient and effective project communications
- Solid customer engagement and management
- Collaborating cohesively with a well-equipped project team
- Making key decisions decisively and in a timely manner
- Using lessons learned wisely from one project to the next
- Planning for risks and then managing those risk potentials
- Managing issues for the life of the project
- Extremely focused scope management and change control
I try to incorporate all eight of these key practices into every project I manage – certain projects and consulting engagements require more weight applied to some more than others, but each are important for every single project.
The CRM experience
During one particular trying consulting engagement, I was asked by the CIO to take on the task of analyzing three different home-grown CRM systems that their three key divisions were using and come up with an overall solution that would work for everyone. It may sound easy, but it definitely wasn’t. Why? You have to consider the user experience and the fact that I was dealing with three completely different divisions that used to be three entirely separate companies until mergers and purchases took place. No single organization was excited about having the other’s CRM choice pushed on them and they weren’t that excited about an outside source – me – coming in and telling them what was best for them.
My solution? Engagement, communication, and a complete and thorough understanding of each organization’s business processes. I couldn’t tell them where they needed to go and how they needed to track their customers without understanding why they were doing things they way they’re doing them at this moment. And I couldn’t get them there without analyzing the risks of the major change for each organization (remember…I’m dealing with three different organizations, not just one…that definitely caused some headaches and many long nights). Planning was key, but communication, face to face discussions with every potential end user I could find, and understanding what was critical information to each organization for successfully managing all of their key customer relationships going forward.
I came in as a consultant and thankfully was given an internal team to direct and to help with my tasks, but I didn’t make friends immediately. I had to gain trust, show expertise, and engage all stakeholders in the process – including keeping them continually up to date on project status, project schedule, issues, risks, and ensuring that they were not only part of the R&D process but part of the solution…that their concerns mattered in terms of what final solution was chosen as a common tool for all three divisions.
In the end, by making it a full collaborative effort, I did keep the end user community engaged, gained their trust, collected their input and came up with a workable solution for everyone. And by successfully completing the analysis phase without everyone hating me, I got to stay on and act as the project manager/consultant for the implementation of the final solution as well – it’s always more fun when you actually get to see things through till the end.