Who We Depend On

Our management staff is our support structure, right?  That’s how it’s supposed to be.  The PMO Director assigns us the projects, mentors the PMs, and probably manages some projects himself.  Our CIO ensures that technology is in place for us to utilize on projects.  His/her staff ensures that benchmarks have been run so that we can present meaningful material to customers upon request. 

Our Development Manager ensures us and our organization that the application developers are hired, available, trained and staffed well enough to support the needs of our projects.  And the Technical Support Manager or Customer Service Manager – whatever it’s called in your organization and it may be two separate people – ensure us that the support structure is in place for post-deployment follow-on support for our very valued customers…just like we’ve promised the customer all project long.

Not Always in Our Best Interests

With all these people looking out for our projects and the resources on our projects, how can anything go wrong?  I’ll tell you how…they aren’t always looking out for our projects’ best interest.  It isn’t necessarily their fault – it’s often budgetary issues or shortage of good personnel.  Either way, it doesn’t make matters any better.  I had a request for a personnel resource that was critical to upcoming tasks on one of my projects – it had been submitted to my executive management for more than a month before I received the resource I needed. 

Imagine the impact to the project timeline as well as the uncomfortable conversations I had to have with my customer as to why I didn’t have the resource available for the tasks.  Not only is it a bad spot to be in as the Project Manager, but customer confidence starts to sink as they realize that either your organization doesn’t have enough skilled available resources to properly staff projects, your organization doesn’t value them highly enough as a customer high, or both!

More Examples of Frustrations

One project a couple of years ago – a very important project with the company’s first customer in the airline industry – required me to take a team onsite to do some rapid work on some issues we were experiencing on the implementation.  We spent two weeks onsite, but keep in mind I had four other projects I was running at the same time. 

Even though things were going well onsite, I was constantly being pushed by my management to avoid all other meetings and focus solely on this customer.  However, they were not willing to provide any short-term PM coverage for my other projects meaning I’d just be leaving them out in the cold in terms of status calls, project schedules and status reports. 

As the Project Manager leading those engagements, there’s no way I could abide by that so I did my best to limit my involvement on the other projects while still overseeing the calls and delivery of information to the customer.  Otherwise, I’d have four other customers claiming they weren’t being considered important enough.

I’ve also encountered budgetary issues with a customer when the PMO Director refused to let me share the information in a timely enough manner to have any chance of correcting the issue and saving the project.  I’ve ranted about this one in a past article, but it still grinds my gears because that was a project that could have been saved. 

And I’ve heard from colleagues about the horror stories of companies downsizing in the middle of projects causing them to lose valuable resources at the worst possible time.  Onboarding in the middle of a project is never easy – and neither is explaining to your customer exactly why you lost the resource.  I sometimes seriously doubt that much thought is given as to what these decisions or poor actions cause a Project Manager to go through with their customers.

A Simple Request…

If any of you have had similar experiences of lack of support from their management infrastructure leading to realized or potential project problems, I’d like to hear from you.  I’ll understand if you make it anonymous, but it would be interesting to hear your horror stories.