Project Execution & Client Management

This course is divided into several sections - What is a Project Manager?; Project Execution Methodology: Processes; Activities & Tools in the PEM; and, Elements to Manage the Client

You will take a journey through Standard Model Partners' Project Execution Methodology and all the tools available to you to execute solid, professional projects.  We'll also discuss elements of the client relationship that you will need to manage and address through the life of a project and beyond.  Welcome to your success!

1. What is a Project Manager?

A Successful Project Manager - Part 1

Project Manager Traits

As the above diagram shows, a Project Manager (PM) must exhibit certain traits to successfully shepherd a project to completion.  Let's start with a key one, which we will touch on more later:

  • Communicate - sharing the right information, at the right time, in the right way; this is key to creating a collaborative team.  Honest, timely and succinct communication is critical, in any communication form used - email, meetings, status reports, phone calls.
  • Listen & Engage - to create and nurture a collaborative team, a PM must listen to all its team members and extract the right information in a way that is right for each individual.  Listening is a skill that needs to be tuned regularly - know your team, their strengths, how they share information.  And check in regularly in case you missed something.
  • Problem Solve - a big part of the PM's role is problem solving, and these can be of any kind: sudden resource constraints; requested change of scope; loss of budget; dissention or conflict in the team - you need to see these coming and be proactive to the issues, instead of reacting.  Observation and critical thinking is a must when managing a project.

A Successful Project Manager - Part 2

Project Manager Traits

And here are a few more:

  • Be a Team Player - use your team for the reason they were assigned - each individual has expertise in a certain area; know this and capitalize on these skills.  Ask your team for help - a PM is not all-knowing and will need help and assistance.
  • Know Your Customer - know the reason your project was initiated.  Who is the client?  What are their goals?  The Client Profile and Project Kick-off Presentation will hold this information.
  • Lead & Manage - the PM's role as a leader is to motivate, encourge and engage, and lead the team to successful project completion.

Match the PM Trait with its proper definition.

  • Problem Solve
    Be investigative and pre-emptive. Analyse risks, solve issues
  • Be a Team Player
    Learn to optimize your team's skills; engage them, serve them
  • Communicate
    Determine frequency, timeliness and content that aligns with team's needs
  • Know Your Customer
    Understand their needs and goals, the organization and its people
  • Listen & Engage
    Pay attention to the team dynamic; learn how to read people; study your clients; be attentive
  • Lead & Manage
    Motivate, encourage, engage; use tools

Leadership Qualities in a PM

Key Leadership Qualities

Behaviours that are important for PM leadership to persist include delivering great communication, delegating appropriately, providing ongoing feedback, and motivating the team.

Personality traits include integrity (honesty and moral), commitment (dedication, engagement), trustworthiness (ability to be relied on), positivity (optimism), being creative (inventive, innovative), flexible (ready for change) and responsible (accountable).

What are the key PM behaviours? Select all.

  • Communicating
  • Delegating
  • Provide Feedaback
  • Stroke Team's Egos
  • Motivate the Team

People Qualities of a PM

Other Important Qualites of a PM

2. Project Execution Methodology: Process

Project Execution Methodology

Driving Towards Project Success - The Project Execution Methodology (PEM)

The Project Execution Methodology (PEM) is a process used by SMP in executing and delivering on client projects and deliverables.  It involves 5 stages - Define (Initiate), Planning, Design, Implementation, and Launch & Warranty.  We will walk through each of these stages in more detail.

Which of the following are stages in SMP's Project Execution Methodology? Select all that apply.

  • Design
  • Configuration
  • Planning
  • Go-Live
  • Define (Initiate)

PEM - Define (Initiate) Stage: The Process

Define (Initiate) Stage

The Define (Intiate) Stage is the first part of the PEM process.  We've included the concept of 'Initiate' in this stage as there are activities that SMP completes internally in order to set up the new client or project within our systems.  We'll talk about these activities when we detail the tools that are available to you, some of which you may be responsible for managing and completing. The start of the Define Stage is the Project Kick Off Meeting, which is the formal first engagement with the client. 

There are several purposes of the Define Stage, some of which includes the following:

  • SMP & the client gains the same understanding of the purpose of the initiative/project and how it might align to the client's corporate/departmental goals, defined strategic benefits, links to other projects, etc.
  • Project and execution risk are identified at a high-level.  This could include how amicable is the organization to this change, where might we find resistance, etc.
  • Understand who the key players are - stakeholders, influencers, decision makers, etc.

What is the ONE activity included in the Define Stage that typically occurs only within SMP?

  • Project Kick-Off Meeting with the Client
  • Initiate Activities
  • Talking to Client Stakeholders
  • A Project Initiation Party

What are the main purposes of the Define Stage?

  • Gain an understanding of the initiative or project
  • Understand how the project is aligned to the client's goals
  • Determine the best way to implement the project
  • Understand the potenial high-level risks that might occur
  • Set the launch date for the project

PEM - Planning Stage: The Process

Planning Stage

The purpose of the Planning Stage is to prepare the entire project team, both SMP and the client, on how the project will be executed, what milestones need to be evaluated, what deliverables the team is committing to, who is responsible for what activities, what type of project monitoring will be required and used in the project, and what is defined as success for the project.  

One of the most important tools you can use during this stage is the project plan.  We'll talk more about this later, but it is an extremely helpful tool to document timelines, deliverables, key milestones and who is accountable for which tasks.  Everyone on the project team should have access to this, and it should be updated weekly to ensure all progress, issues and risks to the timeline or deliverables are documented.

What is the one thing that is NOT done during the Planning Stage?

  • Creation of a project plan
  • Define success criteria
  • Creation of the solution
  • Define who is responsible for what tasks
  • Determine what monitoring tools will be used

Please evaluate the statements below and indicate if they are true or false.

  • The main benefit of planning is for the entire team to meet each other.
  • Planning helps the team to understand what methodology will be used to execute the project.
  • Planning is about knowing who to blame when things go wrong.
  • We typically test the configurations during Planning.
  • The project plan is a tool that should be initiated during Planning.

PEM - Design Stage: Process

Determining Direction

Design Stage

The Design Stage is the meat of the project and drives the direction of the remainder of the activities. This stage involves significant engagement with your client and their project team, stakeholders and decision makers. 

There are usually a number of Design workshops whereby the combined project team comes together to understand the business requirements and processes related to the technology being implemented. Discussions around how the technology can and cannot be utilized to support these requirements are completed, and demos and prototypes may be provided to visibily showcase the functionality.  These discussions will likely be iterative, in that the SMP team may deliver pieces of functionality at successive, defined timeframes, obtaining feedback along the way to augment the configurations as necessary.

Ultimately, when you complete the Design Stage, you will have a final decision on how the technology needs to configured to meet your client's business needs.  These decisions will be made by a senior individual within your client's organization.  

What is the main purpose of the Design Stage?

  • To enjoy the company of the combined project team
  • To determine the how the technology will be transformed to meet the client's requirements
  • To have stakeholders testing the configurations
  • Provide support in case the client does not like the solution

What are some of the things we'll do in the Design Stage?

  • Provide a demo and/or prototype of the solution we are building
  • Engage stakeholders in the design of the solution
  • Deliver the solution into production
  • Gain final approval of the solution by the client
  • Consult with the client on the best ways to use the solution

PEM - Implementation Stage: Process

Implementation Stage

The Implementation Stage translates the decisions made in the Design Stage into a real-life solution. Configuration of the technology, development of reports, iterative feedback from the client's stakeholders and, testing of the configurations and reports are conducted during this stage.  The end result is a final solution ready to be deployed into production.

During this stage, you will also be working with various stakeholders who perform business testing of the solution. These stakeholders will likely influence the launch decision, so it's important that you pay attention to their concerns or issues that arise during testing.  Unless we have committed to it, we are not responsible for the change management elements - things like, stakeholder readiness, business user communications, etc. are usally part of the client's responsibilities.

What is the importance of the Implementation Stage?

  • Finalized requirements are brought to life via configurations
  • We're finally finished talking to the client
  • Testing, and more testing, occurs to make sure the solution meets the business needs
  • The decision to move the solution into production is made

PEM: Launch & Warranty Stage: Process

Launch & Warranty Stage

The Launch & Warranty Stage brings us to the end of the project.  The go-live decision was made towards the end of Implementation, and the business users are getting ready to use the solution.

Typically SMP will offer some form of training to a select group of business users and the client's operational support team(s).  This puts the client's team in a state of readiness to use the solution.  SMP's work continues for a period of time after launch to ensure the solution has stabilized, and offers a warranty period to ensure the product is functional and all agreed to defect remediation has been completed.

You have now successfully completed a client project!!  CONGRATULATIONS!

Phase 5 Self Test

The Launch &  stage is the final stage of the Project Execution Methodology.  The  has been finalized and the solution is ready to go into .  is offered to a select group of business users.  SMP offers support for a period of time for the solution to  and  against any defects that might occur over that period of time.

What are the stages, in order, of the Project Execution Methodology?

  • Define
  • Planning
  • Design
  • Implementation
  • Launch & Warranty

Match the Key Term with its proper definition.

  • Define (Initiate)
    The team understands the purpose of the project and how it aligns to our client's goals, the project risks and who the key players are.
  • Planning
    Prepares project team on how the project will be executed, and defines major milestones, expected deliverables, task responsibilities, project monitoring requirements and project success criteria.
  • Design
    Finalizes the solution structure and how the technology will be used to meet the client's requirements. Final sign off by the client is required.
  • Implementation
    Configuration and testing are the major activities, with a final approval from the client to move forward to production.
  • Launch/Warranty
    The technology is moved to a production environment and SMP offers ongoing defect support for an agreed to period of time.

3. Activities & Tools in the PEM

Project Execution Placemat

Interactive PEM Placemat

The PEM Placemat identifes the tools and template documents used to execute and monitor a project at SMP.  Where applicable, the placemat hyperlinks to the related document located on SharePoint.  We'll walk through each section together.

PEM Placemat - Initiate & Define: Initiate

Initiate Tools

During the Initiate Stage, discussions with the prospective client are had by management, resulting in a signed Contract or Statement of Work (SOW).  At this stage, the scope of the project is defined at a high-level with the intended deliverables defined.  Once this agreement has been executed, the Project Coordinator will send out a Project Announcment and set up all the related tracking spreadsheets and SharePoint folders that will be needed for the project - the New Client/Project Checklist is used for this purpose.

What is the main purpose of the Initiate phase?

  • To get paid by the client
  • To set up the client or project so that work activities can begin
  • To look at all our prospects and pick the best one

PEM Placemat: Initiate & Define - Client Discovery

Client Discovery Tools

During this phase, a Business Consultant (BC) is assigned to the client/project and it is their responsibility to complete the Client Profile. This document is a living document that is updated during the life of the relationship we have with that client. Details about the client's organization, the projects to be executed, the project stakeholders and participants, etc. are included here. 

It is time for the BC to begin preparation for the Define Stage.  A Client Kick-off Planning Checklist along with a Project Kick-off Presentation Template are used to plan and execute a professional and organized start to the project.  These documents guide the BC to collate and present the right information to the project team to ensure alignment and collaboration begins at the start of the project.

What are the tools used in the Client Discovery phase of Initiate?

  • Client Profile
  • SOW Template
  • Project Kick-off Presentation Template
  • Project Announcement Template

PEM Placemat: Initiate & Define - Project Financials

Project Financials Tools

The client/project is also set up in SMP's financial tracking system to ensure we track invoicing and payment receipt correctly.

PEM Placemat: Plan, Design & Configure - Project Management

Project Management Tools

As soon as we begin the Planning Stage of a project, there are a number of Project Management tools available through the Plan, Design & Configure Stages.  Templates such as the Meeting Checklist, Meeting Agenda and Meeting Minutes are tools that provide structure and direction to meetings with the client and their stakeholders.  These help identify the purpose and intent of each meeting, and help to track action items, decisions and next steps that come out of each meeting.

Other documents such as the Specification Document and the Quality Assurance (QA) document, itemize details that come out of the Design stage.  The first defines how the technology will deliver on the requirements, and the latter defines how the technology will be tested to ensure it meets the requirements.  The Lessons Learned template should be used at least twice during your project - this allows for your project team to openly and frankly express the success and opportunities for improvement that can be carried through the life of the project and beyond.

We've discussed the Project Plan in a previous section in this course and will spend time in the next section going over that tool in a bit more detail.

What are some of the key project management tools used during Planning, Design & Configuration?

  • Meeting Agenda & Meeting Minutes
  • Project Announcement
  • Project Plan
  • Specification Document
  • Close-Out Report

Plan & Plan (& Plan Some More...)

Planning Elements

To ensure smooth project execution, think of the following things to help drive the project approach and plan, and manage risk.

  • Define scope clearly and precisely.  Don’t leave room for ambiguity and interpretation.  Define 1) What is out of scope is as important as what is in scope; 2) Ensure everyone understands the plan – remember the differences in how people interpret information: words, pictures, diagrams, flowcharts; and 3) Who approves the scope

  • Define your risks so you can effectively evaluate and mitigate them along the way
  • Define and solidify timelines – business impact, delays, holidays, etc.
  • Approach: How are you going to get to where you need to be? What is the process to manage the project?
  • Define deliverables, milestones and who is accountable
  • Develop the project plan

PEM Placemat - The Project Plan

The Project Plan

The Project Plan is an important tool in the inventory of project management instruments.  If created correctly, it can be used to effectively manage and track a project's progress through to completion.  We'll describe some of the main components of a Microsoft Project Plan here:

  1. Task Name - This is the breakdown of major activities into individual tasks.  Depending on the complexity of tasks and who holds the responsibility for completion, these could be quite detailed.  This task should show the expected activity, deliverable or action the responsible party needs to take.
  2. Start/Finish - This is the expected Start and Finish dates of the task.  There are some tasks that must be completed and there are predecessors (#3) to other tasks, and some can be completed in isolation without any dependencies.
  3. Predecessors - This function allows you to link tasks.  For example, you cannot bake an apple pie before you have apples.  So, obtaining apples is a predecessor for baking an apple pie (along with many other apple pie-baking tasks!). You can see in the sample above, that line item tasks 19 through 23 cannot be started until line item 6 - Business Approval of SOW (Statement of Work) (#6 is not shown in the sample above).  Clearly, we would not want to start project activity if we do not have the management approval of the SOW. 
  4. Resource Names - These individuals are responsible for completing the task or activity indicated on the lines where their names appear.  There can be multiple names assigned to a task, but you must be clear who has the accountability for the task completion.
  5. Major Activity Phase - Your project can be broken out into major activity buckets or phases, where tasks and activities can be logically grouped together.  The project plan works like a hierarchy - the underlaying tasks role up into the major buckets. In this example, all the tasks/activities in the Planning Phase lasts over a period of 109 days; not all tasks will be successive, as some tasks can be completed by different individuals at the same time.
  6. Project Plan Variability - The diagram above represents a template project plan.  You will need to determine the best way to build your project plan based on project execution method determined by your project team.

What is the main purpose of the project plan?

  • To keep track of the project's finances
  • To know who to blame when things go wrong
  • To track a project's progress to completion
  • To know when is the best time for the Project Manager to go on vacation

What does the 'Predecessors' part of the project plan do?

  • Aligns tasks so they occur when they are supposed to
  • Defines the duration of a particular task
  • Assigns a person to a task

4. Managing Your Client

Communication is Critical

Why do we need to communicate?

  • Helps reach your goals – communicate roles, accountabilities, next step, action items 
  • Creates efficiency – everyone knows their roles and focuses on their tasks; immediate knowledge of when things are falling behind and reassign 
  • Positive work relationships – fosters trust & foundations for healthy relationships 
  • Avenue of recognition – create a climate of positivity 
  • Manage conflict – can reduce and diffuse conflict; makes everyone feel heard

The key thing to remember is that speaking is only one facet of communication.  Active listening brings in information that is communicated to you; the process of listening shows interest, understanding, curiosity and helps build strong relationships. While not obvious, critical thinking helps reason through a problem and helps to build solid opinions or recommendations.  If you're not thinking, you may end up speaking the wrong words or ideas.  And lastly, nonverbal communication is signficant and poignant.  Nonverbal communication, like rolling your eyes, or crossing you arms in a meeting, can show disagreement or disinterest. The tone and pitch of your voice, and physical distance between people are also nonverbal forms of communication.  It would serve you well to research more on this form of communication to better understand how you can deliver it more effectively.

Which one is not a form of communication?

  • Speaking
  • Listening
  • Staring
  • Thinking
  • Nonverbal

Communication Elements

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.  George Bernard Shaw

Proper communication takes thought, commitment and effort.  The stepladder above shows you elements that drive effective communication and develop a strong, collaborative team.

Creating a culture and team that communicates and shares feedback drives collaboration, builds rapport and ensures everyone is included will drive success throughout your project. Different forms of communication like email, reports, text and in-person all have different purposes; you must use these appropriately.  Formal documents and messages must use a more formal approach (meetings, documents), while non-urgent or informational messages can use email or text/IM (if directed at one person).

Asking for feedback or how to improve during the project is important.  What's more important is acting on the feedback, where appropriate. There is nothing worse than asking and ignoring; team members will feel excluded and unimportant.

What should a PM do to ensure effective communication? Select all.

  • Create a culture that communicates
  • Ask for input and feedback
  • Find those who are good communicators and speak to them only
  • Use different forms of communication for the right reasons

Tips on Managing Expectations

If you align expectations with reality, you will never be disappointed.   Terrell Owens

Managing expectations can be challenging, but if done correctly, can also be rewarding.  Building a solid, trusting and open relationship with your team is key.  If you have this, the difficult conversations can be easier to have because of that relationship you've built. Start at the beginning of your relationship - communicate, document, listen, resolve, solution - do these things together!

Here are some tips to consider when thinking about your expectation management strategies:

  1. Do not make assumptions on understanding – Document, Review, Reiterate, and Review some more! Leave as little room as possible for interpretation.  Use clear, concise and precise words.
  2. Communicate – frequently!  Meetings, reports, informal discussions - make sure you keep your team up to date on progress, issues, risk, scope creep, etc.
  3. Push back – do not be afraid to disagree or say no to your client.  If their expectations and requirements are not realistic or achievable; you must let them know immediatley.  Then, you can collaboratively work with them on a different way to meet there needs.
  4. Balance the client’s needs with the team/technology’s capabilities – what are the workarounds, if any? What are the absolute cannot do’s?  Protect your team and SMP, while at the same time finding a solution to your client's needs.
  5. Be open about what can/cannot be delivered – under-promise/over-deliver. 
  6. Be honest – all the time; deliver messages with professionalism, tact and diplomacy.
  7. Consult – anticipate the client’s needs before they do.  Ask questions, be inquisitive, offer suggestions; work together towards a solution.
  8. Document – record everything: decisions, ambiguous items, points of contention, recommendations. And do so frequently, sharing with your team as you move through the project.  Use the document templates in the PEM Placemat to assist you.

How to Manage Client Expectations

Managing client expectations can be challenging.  We need to be able to deliver to the needs of the client, while the of the SMP team.  This requires ongoing  that is frequent and honest. It is okay to  when the requirements and expectations are or . It is your job to consult with the client and any decisions, issues, ambiguous items or recommendations.

Managing Change & Scope Creep

Embrace change, as it comes with uncertainty which exists in every project. 

Here are some steps to consider when managing change and mitigating scope creep (client adds more requirements than what was originally agreed to):

  1. Understand how change is accepted and dealt with in your client’s organization 
  2. Understand who is impacted by the change 
  3. Define the scope of the change – change in business processes or requirements will lead to changes in functional requirements
  4. Record the change, and review for clarity and correct interpretation 
  5. Define how the team can/should respond to the change
  6. Determine if there are multiple options, and produce a recommended approach 
  7. Define the timelines 
  8. Prepare a change request 
  9. Determine if interpretation matches desired change 
  10. Gain approval

You can have all the conversation in the world (of which you want to manage so the conversations do not impact timelines!), but if you don't prepare a change request and gain client approval, the change should not be agreed to.

What are the two most important pieces in managing change

  • Define Requirements/Prepare a Change Request
  • Prepare a Change Request/Gain Approval
  • Prepare a Change Request/Implement the Change
  • Define Requirements/Implement the Change

Project Conflict & Turmoil

Types of Conflict

The above diagram depicts the types of conflict that exists. Conflict is a normal part of any relationship and it will happen within your project team and with your client. The most important thing to remember is that it can be managed. It is best to look for methods that are Constructive & Active. This allows you to take into consideration all perspectives, communicate emotions by reaching out to those in conflict, and to create solutions that are amicable to both parties. This takes finesse, diplomacy, respect and professionalism...and requires you to manage your emotions. Passivity may work in some conflict situations where time needs to pass for the team to digest information or the situation, or there is a requirement to adapt to the situation.

You do not want to manage conflict in the Destructive range. This is filled with self-centeredness, lack of collaboration, disrespect, limited honesty and communication, and an inability to manage your emotions. 

Think about all the ways you can mange conflict in a constructive and active way.

What is the best way to address conflict?

  • Be constructive and passive
  • Be constructive and active
  • Be destructive and passive
  • Be destructive and active

Tips for Conflict Resolution

For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.     Margaret Heffernan

Here are some tips to consider when moving through conflict:

  1. Ask questions - conflict can arise because of poor communication.  Make sure you take the time and put in the effort to understand each other.
  2. Analyze expectations - if a conversation is getting uncomfortable, take a step back and review with the team to try to uncover the issue.
  3. Recognize differing perspectives - your team may see things differently; seek to understand each other.
  4. Identify mistakes - understand them and acknowledge them, but don't get hung up on them.  Resolve and move forward.
  5. Watch for emotional triggers - beware of emotions, and when they start playing a negative role; take time to pause, and respectful try to understand.
  6. Focus on preventing escalation - acknowledge when conflict begins and avoid further conflict.
  7. Take action to control the situation - take a break, separate the team, change the location; but don't ignore the conflict.
  8. Commit to working it out - verbally say you're going to work to a resolution.  These words often drive calm and cool things off.
  9. De-escalate the conflict - speak to the facts; eliminate exaggerations of the situation, do not address personality differences.
  10. Stay calm - people lead by example. Stay calm and collected, and others will follow in your steps.