We would expect technical professionals to be more inclined to focus on their respective technical disciplines, sometimes to the neglect of other important project components. That not only aligns with their competencies, but is typically the part of the project they enjoy most. Next in the likely hierarchy of priorities is the delivery process, the internally-driven project execution, controls, and documentation.
All too often, the third priority is what should come first—serving the client. Question my ordering of priorities? Consider the relative expenditures of time and money that your firm makes in mastering these three project elements: technical expertise, delivery process, client service. Does your firm invest the most in improving how you serve clients?
A month ago, I argued in this space that client service should not be viewed as a distinct function, but instead as the "sum of all actions involved in satisfying the client." Now let's apply that principle to project management. Indeed, delivering projects is the primary way you satisfy client needs. Yet it's not uncommon for project work to become somewhat disconnected from the overarching mission of serving clients.
The responsibility of every project manager is to prevent this from happening, to instead keep the client at the very center of the project. Let me describe some of the distinctives of client-centered project management through four primary stages of the project: (1) project definition, (2) project planning, (3) project execution, (4) project closure.
- Clarify project goals
- Uncover the strategic and personal needs behind the project scope
- Benchmark the client's service expectations
- Identify what business objectives need to be achieved for project success
- Define the scope that best satisfies the client's needs and ambitions
- Actively engage the client in the planning process
- Document the client's role in making the project successful
- Seek client endorsement of your project management plan
- Periodically seek client feedback on performance
- Communicate regularly with the client
- Be proactive in addressing changes or problems
- Take steps to prevent mistakes, not just catch them
- Promote collaboration to provide the client with the best possible solutions
- Improve project team performance by connecting them with the client
- Maintain appropriate focus on the project as it nears the end
- Ensure that personnel reassignments don't impede a strong finish
- Work closely with the client to ensure that the project has met expectations
- Conduct a final debriefing to identify areas for improvement