3 Key Areas of Project Management that Ensure Success
By Mike Harvey, VP, Implementations, PRO Unlimited
The foundation of project management falls into five categories: initiating, planning, executing, monitoring, and managing. However, project management goes beyond these five categories. It requires communication, flexibility, and scalability.
Clarity in Communication
There is a delicate balance between providing organizations with a clear and well-documented project plan that ensures achievement of goals and the ability to manage expectations along the way. With any deployment, on-time delivery of commitments for the client is critical and impacts all stakeholders--both internal and external. In order to ensure this, the selection of a project manager with the requisite skills is necessary. Also, having a robust project management plan with buy-in from all key stakeholders is essential. This includes upfront communications with the project team including role definition, responsibilities, deliverables, and timetable. Delivering communications using the language and tools that work best within a client’s culture help to make sure the message is received and understood by the intended audience. Lastly, project management governance meetings are critical to ensure all deliverables are on track and obstacles are identified with recommended resolutions. Recurring meetings offer an opportunity to surface, discuss, and escalate where necessary to keep the project moving forward. Ultimately, the objective is to achieve the client’s goal --- and that can only be accomplished through communicating and navigating the successes and challenges of a deployment.
Flexibility in approach
Project management is essential in delivering key results; however, the team and more importantly the project plan require flexibility especially when addressing 1st generation and 2ndgeneration buyers. There is a distinct difference between building a program for a 1st generation client and a client making a change in a provider (2nd or multiple generation clients). While the methodology is the same, the specifics within project stages will vary based on the client’s maturity in the space. For example, a 1st gen client is unique in several ways:
A client can be a “blank slate” looking for guidance from the project manager on best practices. This highlights an important factor in implementation success: the project manager must have domain expertise and strong leadership skills in order to build a successful program. Ultimately, this allows the service provider to lead the design of the program in a way that will best suit a client without prior experience.
Selecting a combined solution where services and software are integrated ensures a single approach, methodology, and point of contact for a consistent level of delivery during implementation
1st gen clients may have trepidation in implementing a program and the change that accompanies it. For this client, project management must incorporate a change management process and anticipate potential internal resistance. Typically, anxiety exists about what will change along with disruption to existing workflows and production. A strong change management plan that fits within the culture of the client is important to help alleviate these concerns. Upfront communication with the senior management team and other key stakeholders regarding the project and expected outcomes is essential before the project begins. Positioning this as something being done "with them" vs "to them" is a key component of the change management process and will help ensure success.
Challenges often arise when different vendors are selected for implementing two different components: a software and a service. This often occurs with 2nd generation clients who evaluate the service and software. In selecting different vendors, each party may assign a project manager with their own approach, timeline and methodology. Careful consideration needs to be addressed in order to make sure the implementation is not affected by differing approaches. Often selecting a combined solution where services and software are integrated ensures a single approach, methodology, and point of contact for a consistent level of delivery during implementation.
Additionally, project management teams should focus on adapting the tools and approach whether the project is with a 1st or 2nd generation client. There should be an emphasis on tailoring the program and solution to the requirements of the client and industry. For example, in the contingent workforce management space, there are two varying models: disparate and a purely vendor-neutral and integrated approach. Clients receive the most benefit from a purely vendor-neutral approach in managing the complex levels of their contingent workforce; there are specific facets of the workforce where a single vendor / site vendor make the most sense and other areas where a competitive model with multiple vendors will drive the most value for the client. As clients expand their view on the contingent workforce, outsourced and project engagements create an additional layer of diversity and complexity in building a holistic program. In any case, having a project manager with experience in a specific industry can help the client greatly in creating a solution to support their unique needs vs. taking a boilerplate approach from a less flexible model.
Scalability in design
In the contingent workforce space like many others, organizations are looking for a solution to handle global deployments. This demonstrates the growing need for a scalable approach as the model to support clients in different countries. Quite often, this requires a balance between overarching global initiatives and the unique requirements and needs in each region / geography. In the contingent workforce space, this means accounting for compliance, recruitment markets and financial transactions at the local level that are rolled up into a global program. Expertise in the nuances of regional requirements are essential to drive a program that local stakeholders adopt while capturing the core elements necessary to create value in implementing a global program. Often, the client may not have the internal subject matter experts to design a program with such specific regional compliance requirements and selecting a vendor/partner with in-house experience is critical to successfully launching a scalable program.
As companies continue to engage 3rd party firms to consult and manage, these factors should be taken under consideration to help ensure a smooth program launch. Communication is critical in building a strong base for a successful program launch that is adopted by the affected audience. Flexibility is important in designing a solution that works within the unique requirements of the industry and within the culture of the client. Finally, having a partner with a forward looking mentality in project management allows a client to build a program that meets current needs while allowing for future growth.