Essentials of Project Management: What they don’t Teach you at Class – Part 1

Imagine you are the Project Manager for a software project that is being outsourced to your company and you have the responsibility for managing it as an outside consultant. The sale is over and the buyer has become a Client. You no longer represent the ‘Vendor’ but you are now a ‘Consultant’ with all that the term implies. You may or (most likely) may not have been part of the initial phase where commitments were made and papers signed. However, you have to ensure that these commitments are fulfilled.

As the Project Manager, you have to negotiate the right resources from your own organization. In this sense, you represent the Client’s interest. At the same time, you have to ensure that your company’s interests are protected. It is a balancing act that may be as easy as riding a bicycle or as difficult as tight-rope walking. To an extent, this may depend on the kind of relationship one builds with the client but it is more than personal rapport. Whether you follow the Waterfall methodology or Agile development, you have to effectively deal with some common challenges presented by software projects. Every Project Manager eventually develops his or her own strategies to face them. I will share 5 major learnings from the experiences of one Project Manager which can, hopefully, help someone who is new to the role, in 3 blog parts. Here’s the First Essential of Project Management:

1. Don’t Carry the World upon Your Shoulders

I said earlier that you are responsible for delivering the project. However, you cannot ensure the success of the project entirely on your own. The client should share the responsibility with you. The project depends on a number of tasks that the client organization must complete within the time and cost allocated. You do not have control over the client’s resources and hence cannot assume responsibility for them but you are responsible for them (don’t you love this?). So, early in the project, a shared ownership and inter-dependence of tasks must be established. The client’s own Project Manager or Sponsor has a lot of stake in the project and so he/she should have little difficulty in accepting this.

The way to establish joint ownership is to enumerate all the tasks that the client organization must perform to complete the project. Some of these are: providing subject matter expertise, specify requirements, review and approval/sign-off, preparation of test data, acceptance test plan, acceptance testing, making system resources available, etc. Include them (even if they seem trivial) in your plan, establish a schedule for them, assign responsibility for them, and get a commitment from the client to see that they are done. You must then monitor the progress of these tasks on a regular basis. You will have to highlight slippages in these in your status report.

You can read the next part of this 3-Part blog here.

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