I have been working with a University for the past five months helping with setting up an IT Governance structure and establishing a project management process in an environment that has no history of project management. Everyone thinks educational settings are difficult to handle because money is tight and every department is understaffed.
Actually, start-ups are in the same situation.
And small business finds they having to deal with the same constraints.
In fact, every business these days must manage projects in an environment with too few project managers and overworked, underpaid and understaffed stakeholders.
Educate your stakeholders on project management.
Some people are proponents of having stakeholders be their own project managers! I’m not convinced this can work well.
No matter how much education in Project Management you give stakeholders, they are going to have a hard time playing fair with the development team.
You can however, make the project manager’s job much easier if you educate stakeholders on project management techniques. Here are a few things I emphasize when working with stakeholders new to Project Management.
- When working in an organization new to project management introduce a project management process that is simple. Whether sequential or agile, don’t overwhelm the stakeholder with a complicated set of requirements.
- Introduce stakeholders to risk management
- Introduce stakeholders to the idea of a statement of work.
- Introduce stakeholders to the idea that there will be a task list with time estimates, or in the case of agile, explain whatever time estimate method you use to establish your deadlines.
- If you are using sequential project management introduce stakeholders to the impact of Change Requests on the delivery date.
- Introduce stakeholders on the need to request a project as soon as a need becomes available. Often stakeholders tell me that they will be contacting me in six months for a project they need to do. Stakeholders unused to working with a project manager don’t think about development time, just delivery time. Waiting two weeks before you need the project to be delivered will typically leave you without time to meet your deadline.
- At each stage of the project, go over your project process. We live project management every day, stakeholders do not. Even if they have done a couple of projects, they forget why we do things and when.
- Introduce stakeholders to the idea of lessons learned and have them keep a list of their lessons learned for their future projects.
- Don’t forget to educate the project sponsor on the process as well and keep them informed of the progress.
- There are many project management software tools and applications available for listing tasks, assigning time estimates, sharing project information and status and creating reports. Even simple products are better than spreadsheets that only the project manager sees. Whatever tools you use, educate your stakeholders on how to understand the information presented.
Educate stakeholders and you will find that over time, your job as Project Manager will be much more enjoyable and your organization will enjoy more success in delivering projects on time and within budget!