PM’s Don’ts or How to Save Money, Reputation, and a Client
Even seasoned Project Managers with dozens of successful IT projects behind them can slip. The problem is that, in the worst-case scenario, Project Managers’ mistakes entail disappointed clients, money loss, tarnished reputation, and client attrition. To avoid bitter mistakes, a good idea is to build on others’ experience. In Sigma Software, we made a practice of sharing experience between PMs at a yearly internal conference called PM Gathering. We used this year's conference as an opportunity to meet the best of our experts in one place and ask them to share what PM’s mistakes they consider the most grave and how to avoid them.
Don`t Lose Communication
Olesya Khokhoulia, Deputy CEO, Account Management at Sigma Software warns against poor communication with a customer. “A very important indicator of your success is how often you communicate with the client. If you haven’t visited your client for 3-4 months and had no personal meetings during this time, then consider your chemistry dead. You have nothing to work with and are gradually turning into an email-sending machine.
How much communication is enough? If you meet your client every two months, then you are doing well. If the client tries to come to your office often, be the part of the team, hang out with them, then you rock!”
Don`t Neglect Examining the Contract
How well do you know your project contract? Is your understanding of expectations bases on what your Account Manager told you? How well do you understand what lies behind the contract provisions? What are the areas of responsibility irrespective of the contractual conditions? What does the client actually expects from the project? The answers to these questions, Olesya says, define your successful execution of the project and whether you end it with income or loss. Don’t rely on hearsay and assumptions regarding your project. Learn a contract carefully and walk through the project progress, areas of responsibility, and expectations together with your client.
Don`t Hide Behind Contract Terms
Anna Boiko, highly accomplished Account Manager at Sigma Software, is sure that using a contract to disengage from responsibility is another bad sign. A contract may grant you legal protection, but not a successful project completion.
If you get superficial requirements and estimates at the sales stage and draft a rough contract leaving room for re-estimation, you won’t meet client’s expectations. You may feel safe after staffing a team managed on the client’s side. However, a client may have certain expectations for a budget, and since you didn’t clear up the requirements and these hidden expectations, you cannot adjust their budget expectations. This may entail painful consequences over time. The client may run out of money and face the need to cut costs. They may be not ready to invest more and then will leave you disappointed. In this case, the project won’t make a hit, and you’ll suffer reputational damage.
Don’t Expect your Client to Handle Risks
There are no risks, says Olesya Khokhoulia. Feel puzzled? But think about it for a moment. What you are used to call a risk is actually a problem that needs to be solved. This problem may influence a customer or it may not. The main thing to remember is that in any case your client relies on you as a savvy supplier and expects that you will bring up all problems as early as possible, explain them clearly and accurately to enable their fastest elimination. You may mention a risk in your reports a hundred times, but if you do nothing about it, then you don’t fulfil your duties to the full extent. What you need to do is take necessary actions to eliminate the problem or prepare remedial measures to alleviate the consequences.
Let`s take a look at a real-life example. Have you ever took a flight? On a plane before takeoff, the crew always gives a safety training. Do you remember how many passengers pay attention to it? The answer is: quite few. But why? Because every passenger thinks: “I`ve chosen a good airline, I believe the pilot is a professional, so why should I worry?” Is there a chance that the plane crushes? Of course, there is. Do passengers perceive it as a problem that affects them personally? No, because they believe that all the problems will be solved by the people they relied on. The same thing happens in business.
Don’t Put Standard Procedures Ahead of Client’s Needs
Anna Boiko is extremely good at finding the right solution and staying on the same page with a client. She is confident that a formal approach and know-it-all attitude prevents you to become a reliable partner for your customer.
“Fancy terms and long emails won`t make you easier to understand: your client doesn’t need your lectures. Choose a right communication style and avoid sounding like a snob or a bore. Listen to your client and really try to understand what they need. If your client seeks a creative solution, don’t push a ‘by-the-book’ approach accompanied by a preachment about practices. A tendency to follow the book may result from a fear to shoulder a responsibility. However, this is a highroad to lose creativity, stay with old practices, not learning new methods and not extending offer and expertise. Be keen to explore new ways, if you see that this is the best you can do.”
Round-Up: Warnings to No-Beginner PMs
After you’ve made your first mistakes in the project management trade, you may feel that you are on a roll. Keep in mind that you may still make mistakes, and they may be deeper and more adversely affecting the project outcome. So, we hope that the warnings in this article will help you detour the dangers and stay an efficient Project Manager leading your projects to success. Or maybe they will just confirm that you are on the right track.
Thanks to our competent managers - Olesya Khokhoulia and Anna Boiko – for sharing their hard-earned practices.