Even the most world-class Professional Services Organizations (PSOs) with the best project managers and service team members will encounter problematic projects every once in a while.
When this happens, projects can run over budget and clients can become frustrated if the service team doesn’t turn the project around and get things back on track.
If you find yourself with a project that seems like it’s derailing quickly, here’s some steps you can take to resolve the issues, get the project back on track, and deliver a successful and complete project that will keep your client satisfied with the service you provided:
1. Identify the problem areas
When a project starts to derail, the first step is to identify what the problem is. Maybe your service team has hit a roadblock where they’re waiting on a piece of information from the client. Or perhaps there is a technical difficulty that needs to be resolved by another department within your organization, such as the IT department. Maybe the project was incorrectly scoped during the sales process and your service team is unable to deliver a complete project with the allotted hours dedicated to project implementation.
Whatever the problem may be, identifying it allows you to step back and look for a resolution to the problem. This is where a project manager should take control and resolve the issues at hand in order to get the project back on track.
A Professional Services Automation (PSA) Software can help a project manager identify and resolve project issues, because it helps provide a clear picture of the entire project lifecycle. Part of monitoring a project for success requires tracking a project’s estimate-at-completion against its budget. Doing so, acts like an early warning indicator, alerting project managers when a specific aspect of a project may have taken more effort than intended. For this to be effective, however, project managers need to maintain accurate resource management projections and visibility into the project in real-time. Using a PSA software can easily enable a project manager to do this.
2. Resolve the issues by making necessary adjustments
When you’ve identified that there’s a problem with the project, the worst thing you can do is hope that it will correct itself along the way and everything will work out in the end. If it seems unlikely that a project will be completed on time and on budget, that will most likely be the case unless you step in early and make adjustments in key result areas.
Some project managers will assume that a tiny setback will not have a large impact on the completion of the project. This may be true in some circumstances, however, tiny setbacks can often add up throughout the lifecycle of the project which means it is the responsibility of the project manager to adjust for these discrepancies and keep the project moving along smoothly.
One tactical action that project managers can take is to identify the project’s key result areas, also known as critical success factors in project management. These are the big-bucket items that must be completed on time and to a high degree of quality in order to achieve project success. Much like an intricate game of chess, project managers can shift around priorities to accommodate for discrepancies in the project’s plan.
For example, if you know that a client is more budget-conscious than time-sensitive, you may be able to play around with resource utilization in project management. You might trim the team to stick to the budget but at the expense of time to market. If scope or quality are factors that can be adjusted, you may be able to make small reductions that don’t jeopardize the ultimate goal of the project while still achieving your key result areas.
3. Include the client in the discussion as adjustments are being made
There’s nothing that will frustrate your client more than being told at the last moment that the team has used up all of the allocated hours for the project and the work hasn’t been completed, especially if the client was under the impression that things were running as planned. If your client has a strict budget for the project or a non-negotiable date for project completion, they will not be happy if they find out at the eleventh hour that there are issues with the project plan.
As soon as the problem has been identified by the project team, and suggestions for making adjustments have been decided on by the project manager, the client should be made aware of the adjustments that are proposed and sign-off with their approval of the changes to the project plan.
This transparency provides the client visibility into the project and ensures that they are less likely to feel blindsided later on if there are unexpected costs associated with their project, or timelines have shifted.
4. Use data and insights from problematic projects to ensure future projects run more smoothly
Sooner or later every project team will face a problematic project. Hopefully by taking the steps above you can turn a project around and successfully deliver a project that meets your client’s satisfaction, however, the best PSOs will learn from their mistakes and use the lessons they learn from problematic projects to make future projects run smoother.
A PSA software with functionality for creating detailed reports of projects, can help PSOs plan for better success in the future by using project data to understand where improvements can be made. In addition, a PSA software with the ability to send surveys for client feedback and create communities for clients to have visibility into a project can help you get a better understanding of what your clients are looking for and how to do better in the future. Project Health Check Statuses will allow you to quickly see your most successful and least successful projects and empower you to make changes where needed.