Startup Lessons: Project Management (16-20)

For the past 6 months I had the opportunity to be a Project Manager at Ubiqua. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned so far…

On Managing Stakeholders

“Exceed your customer’s expectations. If you do, they’ll come back over and over. Give them what they want – and a little more.” – Sam Walton

“Find the appropriate balance of competing claims by various groups of stakeholders. All claims deserve consideration but some claims are more important than others.” – Warren Bennis

 

  1. Managing Stakeholders is Important.

Managing Stakeholders is critical to the success of your project. By definition, a stakeholder is anyone that is affected or in some cases interested by the implementation of your project. Some stakeholders might expect frequent project updates. Some stakeholders will be participate in overcoming project obstacles. This is why managing all of the expectations and objectives of your stakeholders is a key function for managing your project’s success. Poor stakeholder management can result in conflicting objectives and a poor project adoption.

 

  1. Make things Communication Ready.

Keep things ready to share. Ready to send to a client team. Ready to show & tell at an internal team meeting. When developing your communication tools, such as your project timeline, keep both internal and external stakeholders in mind. These include your PM team, other functions (Sales, Marketing, Software Engineering), your client team, and even company investors. Keep the language simple enough so that any of your audience members can understand the message. A significant responsibility of a Project Manager is communicating progress, deadlines and deliverables; so dedicate enough time to developing your own communication tools.

 

  1. Manage Expectations. Keep Firm on Your Promises.

Scope Creep is known to be one of the leading causes of death amongst almost successful projects. According to our professors at Wikipedia, Scope Creep “refers to uncontrolled changes or continuous growth in a project’s scope. This can occur when the scope of a project is not properly defined, documented, or controlled”.

 

This is why it is so important to manage your client’s expectations. Throughout your project’s implementation

your client (users, IT, Sales Managers) will continuously request new features and requirements that fall out if the initial project scope. Adding these into your project scope WILL increase your project’s costs and schedule.

 

The most important thing is to have a clear list of deliverables, in as much detail as possible. Have these in writing and make sure to discuss them in person with your client. Be critical of your client’s ideas, working with them to define their needs. Finally, know when to say “no”. There are times that you have to be firm with your client and tell them their requests fall out-of-scope. Review and discuss the project requirements often throughout the project, and include a final discussion once the project is complete.

 

Additional Resources:

  1. Managing Scope Creep in Project Management
  2. How to Manage Scope Creep—and Even Prevent It From Happening
  3. 5 Steps to Preventing Scope Creep (and Still Keeping Your Clients Happy)

 

  1. Update Often. There’s no Such Thing as Over-Communication.

No communication is bad communication. Seldom communication is still bad communication. Within reason (I’ll leave this to your own judgement) communicate regularly to all stakeholders and make sure that each of them has a clear idea of (1) what needs to be done, and (2) what you need from each of them. A quick phone call / text goes a long way, probably longer than a long status update email. Use visuals such as status charts and timelines to communicate what’s been done and what’s coming up next.

 

  1. Understand your Client’s Tolerance for change. Adapt accordingly.

This lesson refers to delivering a personal “Change Management” initiative with your client stakeholders. A fundamental truth of new projects is that they bring change; either a new process for doing things, or a new system to use. Remember that the “implementation of the new” will most likely push many people outside of their comfort zone. This includes both your senior executives and your users. Keeping in mind that projects are really made up of people, remember that each of your stakeholders will have some resistance to change. Anticipate your stakeholders resistance to change and support them in overcoming it.


A personal example of this came in the form of reducing our user onboarding from 15 users to 5 users at a time. Learning to use our order management system posed a lot of change for some of our new users, who had never used smartphones or apps before. We decided that reducing the size of the onboarding batches gave us enough resources to support them 1-1 during their first week as new users. The results were a smoother onboarding process and higher levels of adoption from our new users, allowing them to quickly become comfortable with our sales tools.


That’s it for this time. Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Cheers till next time!

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