Managing projects and being a project manager can sometimes be difficult. It seems like an easy job, but the consequences are high when not given the right tools and information. I have spent ten years as a CSM (Customer Success Manager). I have witnessed five project management pain points and how you can solve them.
1. The Sales Handoff
The sales handoff is when your sales team hands off a new customer to the customer success team. Project managers, or in some cases, CSMs, have to run projects with these new customers.
The most common problem that occurs here is the lack of context transferred over. If this information is transferred over and in a timely manner, it can ease the work of the project manager/CSM and increase the experience of the customer.
If there isn’t a handoff process for your internal teams, suggest putting one in order. Different companies of different sizes do it differently, but I recommend finding a platform that keeps this process organized. A poor project can be costly, and your project managers/CSMs will save your organization by getting the delivery right the first time.
2. Keeping Everyone Engaged And On Task
This is one of the biggest project management pain points. The number one cause of project failure is keeping everyone engaged. Have you ever had to ask someone for something over and over again constantly? It’s tedious, nobody wants to be that nagging person, and it’s time-consuming. We all know that if you can save time, you can save money.
This mainly goes for customers, but it also can be about internal teams. 33% of projects fail because of a lack of involvement from senior management.
The solution is to automate those manual reminders. There are plenty of solutions out there that manage tasks like that. If you’re using spreadsheets and give everyone access, you can see the status, but you’re still spending time on those reminders. I suggest client onboarding and project management if you’re looking for a platform.
In my eyes, as a CSM, client onboarding platforms are great for project managers because they allow for those external teams to come in. This means that not only will project managers use the platform, but the customer does as well. A cohesive delivery requires partnership and client onboarding tools to leverage technology to build partnership, direction and transparency in a project to keep everyone on task.
3. Constantly Having To Give Status Updates To Internal Teams
My favorite phone call would always come at 7 am from the sales account executive I supported in the Midwest. He’d be calling me with his hair on fire, asking me for the status of implementation because the executive sponsor was asking him for one. CSMs and project managers constantly have someone asking for updates. Maybe it’s their boss, the sales rep, or sales leadership, or it could even be other key members working on the project; project managers are constantly required to give updates. This can be tiring, stressful, and often inconvenient––I’ve been there (and have experienced all of these project management pain points)!
Wherever you organize your projects, let everyone have access and be transparent about what’s going on. Let the right people know if you’re running behind on a project or even ahead of schedule! Keep a record of it in a system everyone has access to and automate your updates if possible. By creating a communication pattern, you are proactively answering questions before they get asked. This way, less people are asking where you’re at in a project, and they can look for the updates themselves.
4. Not Being Able To Account For Your Time
Transitioning from the paragraph above, if projects are running behind and you’re not sure why or if your boss is wondering why you don’t have the bandwidth to manage more projects, “it’s about time to track your time!” However, manual time tracking can take a lot of organization and dedication. But you have to keep the benefits of time tracking in mind. If you track your time, you can easily validate your role’s value to an organization. You can justify the need for additional headcount by being able to show bandwidth. You can defend to leadership, sales, and CS teams why a project is where it’s at by showing how much time you have spent on it.
Suppose you find a solution to help you track time; great! If you don’t want to pay for something, use an excel sheet to put in the same categories you work on for all projects. Then, use a timer or keep an eye on the clock to see how many hours you put in that specific category. What you might find by tracking time might surprise you.
5. Scope Creep
You may have heard this term before. If you haven’t, scope creep is when the project’s scope gets bigger than originally planned. That sounds like: “Great, we’re almost done. Can you add this for me? And then this too? And then do this?” Here’s a full definition and some examples.
If you are familiar with it, you probably shuddered when you first read the words, scope creep!
How to avoid it? The best advice I can give you is this:
First, lay out the project with those involved from beginning to end with clear expectations, deliverables, and milestones. Each project must have a clear path to its completion.
Tracking time and showing your customer how you’ve spent at the beginning of every call can help keep the project on task. For example, “You have purchased thirty hours, and we have used twenty-five of them. We plan to use them this way for the remaining five hours…” This practice will help the customers see how their requests impact their deliverables and help them think through what work they ask you to do.
Lastly, identify where scope creep has the potential to occur and make a plan for what to do when that happens. Scope creep usually occurs with trivial tasks that aren’t a high priority. An example plan can be agreeing that if you’re going to go down that rabbit hole, a new project has to start. These phrases can help prioritize what’s important if scope creep starts to occur:
- “If we do this, then we cannot do (insert previously planned task).”
- “By adding this, we will need to remove something else.”
- “Is this request more important than what we previously scoped?”
The priority should be the current project, and scope creep usually occurs with trivial tasks that aren’t a high priority. If a task has the potential to trigger scope creep, and the project can’t move on without it, then those tasks should be added to the project outline. Scope creep can tarnish projects and delay revenue recognition, which is expensive for an organization.
I am sure several best practices exist for these five project management pain points. Every organization and customer is different, but I have used these tips and have seen work. As you try them, I hope you have the same success.
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