As a consultant charged with a project at a new client, you don’t know what is going to clobber you as walk through the door that first day. You may find your project team is exceedingly hostile, you sit three feet from the train tracks and rats will steal your lunch (a true client story). But you can always rely on the fact that any project will encompass these three basic principles, Process, People and Prerequisites.
Process: Project Managers should carefully assess the environment and use the appropriate process or methodology that fits the client’s business or project. One of the biggest mistakes an inexperienced PM can make is trying to shoehorn a project into a rigid framework or very specific methodology (Agile). Without carefully applying the applicable methodologies or process that meshes with a specific project, a PM can risk customer push-back and project failure.
People: Project Managers often make the mistake of not involving the appropriate people or groups at the beginning of a project. The most overlooked groups are Information Security, Risk and Quality Assurance. This oversight can cause a project to be halted in its tracks if no one from QA was aware that a new system needed to be tested on a specific date or security had never been consulted on a new application being added to the corporate environment. To rectify this, a Project Manager should work with the organization’s Project Management Office (PMO) to ensure the right groups are involved throughout the project lifecycle. This tip also ties into the choice of the methodology used as well.
Prerequisites: Basically the project requirements. A very common mistake for Project Managers is to push ahead with a project when the Business and System Requirements have not been adequately defined by the Customer due to project schedule constraints. This is one of the most common causes of Project Scope Creep which can push out a project schedule and bust a carefully crafted budget.
Normally when a consulting project manager has been engaged, the “horse” is already out of the project “barn” so to speak. So to ensure that the Business Requirements for a particular project have been thoroughly defined, enlist the services of an experienced Business Analyst. This analyst should be well versed in the Project Customer’s business. This will pay large dividends, financial and otherwise, as the project moves through its life-cycle.
These three guideposts have served me well over multiples of clients in both government and corporate environments. Another tip, if you work in former train station, pack your lunch in Tupperware.