Sometimes I am asked to act as a Project Management consultant on a project where the customer really needs to have a project manager but isn’t willing to put the money into having someone manage the project properly. This is a difficult ask – after all, if you want the project to be well managed then you need to invest in the project management! I have recently been involved in such a project and needed to really look at what value I could add to the project without breaking their budget. In instances like this you really do need to keep project management simple.
Now I do not advocate cutting corners or reducing your standards lightly, but we all know that sometimes there are situations in which we are placed where our options are limited. After all, it is the real world and things don’t always flow nicely along according to the PMBOK manual!
Here are a few tips if you find you need to ‘keep it simple’:
Make sure the customer understands that they are not getting a full project management service
It is imperative that customer expectations are managed. When people want to bargain with you about price and scope, something funny can sometimes happen later in the project – they think that they are still getting the same service for the reduced price! If things go awry, as the ‘project manager’ they will still want to see you as responsible. You need to ensure that if you decide to take on a role where your full standard of project management cannot be implemented then the customer knows and understands the risk associated.
Establish what exactly will be able to be delivered for the proposed budget
Be clear about what can and cannot be included in the project management service to be offered. For example, discuss the number of hours you will be able to invest in the project and what they will get for that. Discuss the expectations around meetings and reporting requirements as people often forget that these are necessary things that must occur and may leave those out of the budgetting process.
Institute simplified reporting systems
If you don’t have time or budget to implement your full reporting sytems – still institute something. You know the old saying, if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it! I implement a simple one page excel spreadsheet progress report. It contains a few basics, including:
- Summary Section – project % complete, project date due, expected delivery date
- Deliverables Summary – list of deliverables, date due, expected date, % complete, status updates/comments
- Issues/Risks Summary – list of issues/risks, including date identified, person responsible, impact, status, status updates/comments
This is really bare bones stuff, but when you’re keeping it simple – well….
Executive management loves this sort of report as it is simple and quick to read and hopefully it is quick and easy for you to prepare and ensures that you are keeping up to date of where things are at.
Maintain regular contact with the project and institute actions quickly
Projects like this, where you are being asked to reduce your normal standard of management really are at risk. It is easy to lose touch or fail to keep up with what is happening in the project when you’ve been asked to do the ‘bare minimum’ – but it is imperative that you maintain a regular point and time of contact with the project to keep on top of it. It is also imperative that you act when required – quickly. Get on top of issues fast.
Document and communicate well with the key stakeholders
Even though your project documentation will be less than usual, do maintain it. As previously stated, projects like this are often at risk of going awry and if they do, you want everyone to know at what point that occured and why. I guess this is called ‘covering your own backside’.