Step 5: Manage the Project
Overview: Selecting a qualified vendor and having a contract in place does not guarantee success. All projects, no matter how well crafted, require the buyers' oversight and active support. All vendors, large and small, must balance productivity and quality in order to be successful. This need for balance is inherent in nearly every project because customers expect quality and productivity at the very best price. In the consulting services industry, productivity is a measure of the amount of work completed, and hence revenue generated, per man-hour worked. Expending unbudgeted man-hours to improve quality either increases the cost to the client or lowers the profitability of the vendor. Without proper oversight of the project, some consulting firms will tip the balance towards productivity over quality.
Process: Assign a knowledgeable and well-organized Project Manager to the project and practice these key project management principles.
Practice these principles:
- Principle 1: Check the Contract First - The contract is a reflection of the buyers' expectations for the project and the vendor's promise of performance. It should always be the first place the project manager looks for guidance.
- Principle 2: Communicate - Keep tabs on the vendor's progress and the project budget, from start to finish. If the vendor promised to start your project at a designated time, check to make sure they have. If they promised to provide regular status reports, make sure they do. If they promised to reach certain milestones at certain points in time, make sure these promises are kept. Note, however, that even well-planned projects can have unexpected delays, so cooperation and understanding is essential for building a long-term relationship with a vendor.
- Principle 3: Review & Comment - Include a "peer" review step of all project deliverables, because even the most conscientious and experienced professionals can make mistakes. While expecting the consultant to arrange for its own internal peer review is a good idea, there are far more value gained from an independent, but fair, review process. If the buyer doesn't have internal resources to conduct these reviews, then a separate third-party can be contracted for this purpose.
- Principle 4: Be Responsive - If the vendor needs the customer's input or support to keep the project moving forward, respond to these needs in a timely manner. This is particularly important for larger projects where small delays early in the project can lead to even greater delays at the end. Productive consulting firms tend to juggle multiple projects at once and, if delayed by the customer, will shift resources away from that project to another.
- Principle 5: Be Consistent - The vendor should receive direction from one person, the buyer's representative or Project Manager, and that direction should be consistent throughout the project. If a project involves multiple stakeholders, the buyer's representative or Project Manager should either arrange for the input to be consolidated or the vendor should be instructed during the bidding process that consolidating the input will be part of the assignment.
- Principle 6: Pay the Bills - Ensure that the vendor's invoices are processed and paid in a timely manner. For larger projects, work can be delayed if the customer fails to pay invoices on time.
- Principle 7: Track Costs - To avoid surprises at the end of the project, use this cost-tracking spreadsheet or other tool to keep track of the contractor's actual costs verses proposed costs.
- Principle 8: Expect the Unexpected - REACH is currently new territory for all stakeholders and there are many opportunities for unexpected hurdles. As such, all parties involved should be prepared to work together towards the mutual benefit of the buyer and vendor to deal with these hurdles as they arise. Part of this preparation is ensuring that sufficient funds are available in the project's budget to respond to unexpected, but necessary, charges.
Step 6: Close Project
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