Taking up the mantle of ‘Project Manager’ (PM) in the world of Professional Services has unique challenges, especially when dealing with emerging cloud technologies and complex business problems. As with any project, the importance of managing budget, scope and timeline are three key pillars to success, but to deliver optimally in client services, there are a few other factors to keep top of mind. I have found that approaching projects with a commitment to adaptability, preparedness, and an openness to tailoring your management style to meet the clients’ unique needs are critical to delivering lasting value.
Flexibility & Adaptability
As a consulting PM, new projects often come with a lot of new territory. Working within a client environment can often feel like starting a new job, but without your ‘First Day Orientation’, new swag or an HR rep to explain how it all works. In this new environment, you’ll meet a new team, experience a different work culture, and learn new processes. As a PM you are often one of the first to venture into this world; staying flexible and adaptable is key as you learn new information and gain a better understanding of how your client operates.
Project Managers need to be able to adapt project management practices to find what works best for the client. While you are bringing in your own expertise, best practices, and have valuable resources from your company’s PMO, the client’s goals, processes, and capabilities must be a primary focus. As the adage goes – “to expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect” – and in the modern world of cloud technology, doing so is key to success. Approaching client projects with the expectation that your current vision for how the project will operate could change entirely in a matter of weeks will help you find the best processes for your project.
The additional benefit of approaching client services with a flexible and adaptable mindset is that it helps you hone your skills for identifying and implementing efficient processes, which can permeate beyond the project itself. Coming from an outside perspective with a commitment to adaptability, a PM can apply the same mentality to overall client functionality, where appropriate.
If you have seen a Project Manager’s calendar before, you’ve probably witnessed a zoo of meeting invites, prompting you to ask the question – how do they get anything done?! As a PM, it’s important that you stay on top of your calendar, looking ahead so you can plan for what’s upcoming and when you’ll have time to “do your work” (like updating project schedules, unblocking teams, prioritizing tasks, communicating to stakeholders and executives, preparing meeting agendas etc.).
The Project Manager sets the tone and foundation for the project. If you are unprepared and disorganized, your team will be disorganized and confused. It’s easy to get sidetracked in the hustle and bustle of the day-to-day, but as a PM you need to ensure you are carving out time to organize yourself and tackle deliverables, otherwise everyone suffers. Establishing an organized framework from the start is critical to project success in the long run.
When you are intentional in your preparation, you can create a framework incorporating what works well for your team and what works well for your client’s style of operation. Proactive preparation will help achieve cohesion, allowing both you and the client to focus on collaboration, value creation and problem solving.
Individualized Communication & Visibility
Effective project management requires strong communication; it’s critical that everyone supporting the project is aware of what they need to do and what is expected of them. There is, however, a fine line to walk between filling communication gaps to ensure goals are achieved, and inundating team members with too many emails, meetings, or status reports.
When working in a client environment, I always approach communication with my customer service hat on, expecting that I will need to adapt my style based on the customer’s needs. When a project involves new cloud technologies, clients are typically facing many changes; tailoring my communication style to the client’s preference is the most effective way to guarantee customers feel like the project is in hand and on track to being a success, even if they aren’t directly driving the initiative.
As a Professional Services Project Manager, delivering cloud solutions has its challenges. There can be significant unknowns associated with emerging technologies, various dependencies that can impede progress and unexpected hurdles when integrating technical and non-technical teams. In the face of all that, if you approach project management with a focus on adaptability, proactive preparation and a client-centric communication style, you will often find success in the world of Professional Services.
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