Project managers always try to accomplish two goals when managing a project: save time and money. However, project managers know this isn’t always easy or possible, depending on the project…and the customer. The good news is there is a lot a project manager can do on the front end of projects in order to increase the likelihood of reaching these goals as well as successfully delivering a quality product.
The success of every project, regardless of how complex, risky, and costly, starts with proper planning during the development phase. Properly gathering requirements, managing expectations with the customer, and estimating time, costs, and resources can go a long way in setting the tone and success of a project.
Unfortunately, too many project managers struggle with this phase of the project due to a lack of time and resources, which only results in project teams scrambling to finish a project. We all know this can be a recipe for disaster that results in poor communication and poor deliverables.
A great deal of work goes into this phase at the front end of the project, and it is one of the most important steps in the project life cycle. After all, how do you know what purpose the project will serve if you don’t properly identify the requirements? Gathering requirements often means asking questions that surround a project’s purpose. Being able to identify and describe all project stakeholders is crucial in properly gathering requirements.
After gathering requirements, project managers should also properly manage expectations with customers. This is another area that is difficult to manage mostly due to communication. How a customer might perceive the end result of a project might be different than how a project manager conveys deliverables and the end product. This is another recipe for disaster because ultimately it leads to disappointed or frustrated customers.
Implementing proper modes and channels of communication is the solution here. Communication is one of the most important elements to successful project management. While it is important to implement proper communication tactics and channels throughout teams and suppliers, the same tactics should apply with customers. Obviously the language and vocabulary will differ between audiences, but proper communication will allow project managers to effectively manage customer expectations and ensure the accurate delivery of a project.
Estimating is often the least favorite project management step. This step often involves a combination of the above steps…and some math. It can also be difficult to estimate a project’s costs, and even the net price of a particular project, if the project scope isn’t accurately or completely defined during the development phase. This means the project manager needs to work with the customer on a regular basis in order to define the scope so that the development and design steps can begin, and estimating is more accurate.