With an increasing number of professional services firms focusing on project-based work, having the right project management tool is fast becoming the most important aspect of a firm’s sales strategy.
Project management is fast becoming an essential component of most businesses' strategic offering. Whether it’s a law firm working on a big case or an IT firm implementing new software, more than simply hiring a professional services firm for its niche specialisation, customers are looking to hire firms that are exceptional at delivering projects on-time, within budget and to brief.
How professional services firms deliver a project is just as important as what they deliver. It doesn’t matter if you have the best product or solution in the market, if you don’t provide a seamless project management experience, customers will inevitably be left feeling dissatisfied, stressed-out and disinterested in re-engaging your firm for further services or recommending your services to other businesses.
In order to find success with project management you need to make sure you have three important ingredients:
- The right people
- The right process
- The right technology
The right people
When you’re in professional services, your people are your product. Having the right people working on the right projects is the first step towards achieving organisational success.
People become more important the more direct interaction they have with your customers, and as anyone working in an SME professional services firm will tell you when a project gets underway, nearly every team in the business is working towards delivering an exceptional result for the customer.
So, what are some of the characteristics you should look for when putting together a project management team?
- Product knowledge and smarts only get you so far: Obviously, you want to be working with people that know their stuff. You want your team to be filled with technically brilliant individuals that can geek out in front of a client and show-off how much industry and product knowledge your firm has. However, subject matter experts are not enough. Your project team needs at the very least to have a project manager that is an inspirational visionary.
What does an inspirational visionary look like? They’re the person that knows how to read a room, they can tell the difference between what a client actually wants versus what they think they want. They’re the type of person that understands a project team has to be two times proactive with one time reactive and they can see problems brewing from a mile away and can solve them before they become project critical. But most important of all, they make the project team feel inspired, at ease and confident. They build people up when things are getting tough and they light a fire when work isn’t getting done. If your project management team doesn’t have an individual that meets the above criteria then you need to start looking for them asap.
- Talk the talk and you’ll walk the walk: One of the main reasons projects end up breaking down is because everybody working on them thought they understood the assignment but nobody really bothered to communicate it. Having good communication is essential to making anything work, even more so when you’re delivering a project. First and foremost, you need to make sure that your client, your sales team and your project team are all singing from the same hymn book and that you have a strong communicator in your team that can keep all stakeholders abreast of any changes, deviations or complications.
Second, you need to make sure that the language (both technical and colloquial) used by the team is consistent with that being used by your client. Sometimes words have two meanings and context can change everything, make sure you’re correctly managing everyone’s expectations by communicating clearly and frequently.
- Cruel to be kind: Having the right project management team means balancing a group of highly specialised people that are incredibly driven and are often addicted to the adrenaline of quickly turning a project around. Those that go into project management often have a love of working under pressure. While this is a great skill to have, it can also alienate customers and clients who are not used to fast-moving project-based work. So, while you want a team that is super enthusiastic and driven, you also want to make sure your team is filled with people that are empathetic and compassionate. Being able to see things from other people’s point of view is critical when delivering a project that’s supposed to leave customers feeling delighted that they chose to do business with you.
The right process
There are many different project management methodologies to choose from, and depending on the type of service your business offers, one approach might make more sense than another. For example, the Waterfall project management methodology is particularly useful when you have large projects that have clearly defined objectives and intentions. The Agile project management methodology might be more appropriate if your business works quite quickly and the projects that you do vary from client to client. Agile is also much more appropriate if you’re undergoing a completely new project for the business or implementing a technology or solution whose final outcome is somewhat unknown. In order to find success, you’re going to have to experiment.
Regardless of the methodology, you need to make sure that you have a process in place that works with your business and can be easily mapped on and communicated to your clients and potential customers.
Key to having the right project management process are:
- Predictability: The more project management becomes a key feature of your service offering, the more predictable your business has to become in the way it runs its projects. Customers need to know that what you said would happen happens and they want to rest assured that the way you run a project is akin to a well-oiled machine. Making sure expectations are met is your number one priority as a firm that delivers projects on behalf of clients.
- Agility: No matter how hard you plan, something will always go wrong. If not wrong, then something will at least go spectacularly not to plan. You need to make sure you have a project team that can roll with the punches. Customers are fickle things and often what they want and what they actually need are two completely different things. Having a team that is able to adapt quickly, not get hung up on technicalities and can change gears when the road ahead changes is a key part of delivering seamless projects.
- Transparency and honesty: Managing expectations is a theme that keeps coming up time and time again when it comes to project management, and with good reason. In business your word is your bond, if you say you’re going to do something then you need to follow through with it and if you can’t, you need to have a pretty good reason as to why you reneged on your commitment. Whether it’s going over budget or going off the project plan, if you’re not honest and transparent with your team and your clients then no matter how technically brilliant your project team might be, your customer is going to feel angry and betrayed.
The right technology
Underpinning every aspect of your project management offering is the technology you use to run your projects. From email to forecasting, team management and budgeting, having the right technology in place can either make or break the success of your project delivery. Not only will your own project team thank you for using the right technology, your clients will equally be thrilled.
When it comes to using a one-stop-shop project management tool that provides ease-of-use, collaboration, innovation and intelligent insights, you can't go past Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Project Services Automation.
Bringing together the full power of Microsoft Dynamics 365, the Project Services Automation (PSA) is built specifically for firms that run projects as their main source of revenue. Covering everything from helping sales teams identify project opportunities in their pipelines to ensuring finance is correctly billing the customer for the work being done, Microsoft’s PSA tool takes every aspect of successfully running a project into account and rolls them into one simple tool. Finding success with project management has never been easier.
PSA’s core capabilities include:
- Opportunity management: Sales dashboards allow account managers and sales consultants alike to easily identify project opportunities. Sales managers can identify a project's profitability and feasibility and easily create project contracts and statements of work (SOW).
- Project planning: bring the whole project team together using standardised project templates that help manage cost, effort and the value of work. Easily involve clients in the project’s journey by collaborating with them on the project plan, the estimation process and give them a transparent portal through which they can track the project's progress.
- Resource management: Find the right resources for the right task through the power of machine learning. PSA makes resource recommendations based on employees’ skills set and availability. Easily forecast demand and resource allocation by having a comprehensive view of your entire project management office.
- Team collaboration: Stand on the shoulders of Microsoft’s Office 365 and collaborate effortlessly with internal and external project stakeholders. From providing group access to critical documents so project deliverables can be easily monitored to empower project managers with real-time status updates, PSA lets your team work with their finger firmly placed on the pulse.
- Time and expense management: Manage estimated and billed project time with ease by integrating tasks and deliverables on calendars. Give your clients real-time financial insights and allow them to engage with you to improve costs.
- Customer billing: Cut out the intermediaries and let your project managers review, override and approve project costs and timings. Invite your customers to view projected vs actuals and automate the invoice approval and reconciliation process. PSA seamlessly integrates with your firm and client’s ERP systems so everything flows smoothly in the back-end.
- Analytics and integration: Have a holistic account of your entire project ready to go the second that it’s over. PSA allows you to easily pull project implementation reviews (PRIs) so that you can track where your team succeeded and where there’s room for improvement.
Words by Camilo Lascano Tribin
Want to learn more about how your business can project manage perfectly? Get in touch with Advantage today
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