Have you ever come across a customer on a project who simply didn’t want to pay for a project manager? This situation would basically have to come in a professional services situation where your organization is billing out skilled project resources to customers at various hourly rates.
I have come across this – and to be fair I was warned about the situation before I ever took over the project. The project was led on the customer-side primarily by two individuals – a man and a woman. The gentleman told me up front that “I don’t like you.” This occurred during one of our first status meetings. My lead developer said “you don’t even know Brad. You’ve never met him.” Which is true…we hadn’t met in person yet and wouldn’t till several months later. The customer’s response at the time was “well, he’s a project manager and I don’t like project managers.”
Pretty blunt, right? They had what they considered to be a limited budget and just didn’t see the need for the engagement to be managed by an expensive resource like that. Needless to say the fire was lit under my butt to show quick value and change that perception. This customer was not going to be easy to win over and it certainly didn’t appear that they were going to be easy to manage or gain their cooperation. To them I was excess baggage.I’m sure lots of customers have some thoughts about PMs being unnecessary, but this is the first time I had a customer tell me that to my face…well, actually, over the phone in front of several other team members.
So, what could I do to change things around? I didn’t have long – it wasn’t scheduled to be a long engagement…approximately 6 months. I need to start work immediately on changing their way of thinking. Here is how I set about doing that:
- Held weekly status calls with very detailed information on status coming directly from me. They didn’t have a problem paying for developers and architects, so I made sure that all detailed update info came from me so they quickly saw value.
- Provided very detailed weekly budget information – since cost was the driving factor for them – including detailed resource hours and cost forecasts for the remainder of the engagement (updated weekly)
- Minimized PM expenses as much as possible. I worked to efficiently manage the project while not overcharging it. I opted out of one onsite visit explaining that it wasn’t critical for me to be there at that point in time and they appreciated it.
- Worked quickly to alleviate any concerns and issues. The project was not large and therefore would not always warrant such critical and prompt attention when a PM was already overloaded like I was. But with this customer attention was absolutely necessary so when they said, “jump”, I said “how high.” They needed to understand that I took their concerns seriously and that I was “on it.” That’s how they were able to recognize PM value.
I was able to change their perception. I never met the customer face-to-face during the entire engagement – foregoing some opportunities to keep the budget in proper alignment. I did finally meet them later after the project at a conference hosted by the company I was working for. And, thankfully, we were basically friends by that time because they had become a happy customer and no longer rejected project managers as needless accessories. They understood the value of a project manager who was looking after their best interests.