10 Ways to Truly Please Your Project Customer – Part 2

please your project customersRemember, the project customer is not necessarily our friend. But we do want them to be satisfied with our delivery of the project team them. In Part 1 of this two part series, I began discussing the first five of my ten ways to please your project customer – and basically none of these cost the project or you or the customer any real extra money. They’re just ways you can lead the project and incorporate information and processes so that they feel better about how the project is going. Let’s look at items six through ten in this Part 2.

Communicate everything. More communication with the customer is far better than less. When in doubt, communicate. Put it in the status report, make note of it in the project meeting notes that you distribute – do whatever you have to do to make sure the customer has all necessary information in their hands. You never want the customer to come back and say, “I didn’t know that.” If it’s on something that becomes a major issue on the project – that’s a career killer.

Keep PM charges to a minimum. Be involved without being involved. What I mean here is, don’t go overboard with the project management hours charged to the project if you don’t have to. Many project clients feel like the PM is high-priced and somewhat unnecessary overhead anyway. And they sometimes resent paying for it. We know it’s needed, but sometimes they don’t really understand that or see it that way. Whatever we can do to over deliver and under charge will make them love the project and love the project manager.

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10 Ways to Truly Please Your Project Customer – Part 1

please your project customerWant to make your project customer happy? Want to guarantee they’ll be very satisfied clients throughout the engagement? Ok, you may need to ask someone else because I certainly don’t have the answer for that. If I did I’d be a millionaire several times over by now. But I can tell you that doing the ten things that are contained in this two part series will help your customer love you more as a project manager and likely be more pleased about the project than they otherwise would be.

Think of these as nice, value-added things that you and the delivery team can bring to the project without really costing the project customer and the project any extra money.

Lead a great project kickoff meeting. I realize this may be easier said than done. But how you kickoff the project will say a lot about who you are and how you’re going to manage the engagement and maintain control of the project and team. And it’s the start of customer confidence in your ability to deliver. Start off poorly and you’ll be fighting to gain that customer confidence and respect throughout the engagement. Come prepared, set expectations, show them how you will run the project and be (and sound) confident. And if you can be confident, you still need to sound confident.

Deliver bad news early. We hate to deliver the bad news, but there’s always some bad news. Whether it’s telling the customer that the project is going over budget, that a deadline will be missed, or simply that a potentially expensive change order is necessary … there’s always some bad news to deliver. Don’t delay it. Don’t wait. Give it to the customer promptly and preferably come with a lot of information and some potential solutions. It’s always better to deliver bad news when you have some potentially good news to add to it.

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Five Mistakes You Do Not Want to Make As a Project Manager

PM HutBy Michelle Symonds
PM Hut

five mistakes you want to avoid as a project managerSome mistakes can be avoided if you plan properly and in advance. Inexperienced project managers can sometimes make mistakes, simply because they do not recognize them as mistakes due to a lack of experience. Here we will look at five mistakes that you really do not want to be guilty of.

1. Omission of milestones

These are important because they provide you with short term goals and targets and a quantifiable measure of progress that you can you show to your investors and managers in the form of progress reports. They also provide your project with structure, and prevent creation of a long list of tasks that seemingly lacks cohesion.

2. Disregarding your risk log

Your risk log is an important document, and it should be worked at from the outset. The trouble is, many project managers make the mistake of putting a risk log in place at the start and then file it away in a drawer until the completion of the project. New risks, ones that are not included in the log, are sure to come along during the course of the project. Other risks come to nothing, and yet some become an altogether different problem. Risk logs need to be updated as the project progresses, as a written record of risks that are being actively managed.

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Tips for new Project Managers – Part 2

tips for new project managersIn Part 1 we started considering tips that new project managers might need or find useful as they migrate their way through the new responsibilities that have been thrust upon them. What I’d like to focus on when giving such tips are those things that may not be in a book or aren’t usually part of some pre-defined methodology. They are concepts…and they may seem logical to most – or even illogical at times – but they are useful on most project engagements and I have found them to be very helpful processes as I’ve managed most of my projects.

Let’s consider more…

Limit customer representation in the kickoff meeting. I found out about this one the hard way. I was leading a project kickoff session on an IT project for a large industrial supply company in Chicago. My company had four or five people there. The customer had probably twenty…and it felt like 100. What ensued was a question filled day (actually two days) rather than the organized kickoff session that should have taken about three hours. The kickoff session should be a nice controlled meeting with you providing the customer with the information you have on the project and verifying key dates, expectations and assumptions and explaining how you’re going to manage the engagement. If the customer has too many subject matter experts (SMEs) on hand for this session, it will soon get out of control and turn into a business process and requirements definition discussion that should not be part of the kickoff meeting. Be sure to set attendance expectations prior to the kickoff meeting…I certainly do now.

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Tips for new Project Managers – Part 1

tips for new project managersSome people choose project management as a profession. Often moving to it from something else…another management position, a lifetime of application development work before realizing they have tired of that, or possibly they were a music major in college (don’t ask, let’s just say there are several individuals out there still wondering – along with me – how one of my previous managers ended up in his position of responsibility?!?).

Still others find it thrust upon them – sometimes unwillingly and sometimes for just a onetime project and nothing more. The concept basically is this…it’s rarely a chosen career for the new college graduate…it usually comes later for a variety of reasons…but it happens – whether you were looking for it or not. And there is always that moment where you are new – or relatively new – to the project management world.

This information – I hope – will give you some tips to get through some unexpected struggles and possibly to avoid others. We all step into this PM darkness thinking that it’s going to be more straightforward and simple than it ends up being. And few of us realize – upon jumping into the game – the immense pressure we may get on certain key projects to succeed. When I was running a $30 million government project for one of my previous employers I had to sit down monthly with the CFO and justify a 2% variance (either way) in profit because it was such a huge part of the businesses bottom line. Yes, even the financials are yours to manage – and I had to sweat through every question and a detailed review of every deliverable in what was usually a 2-3 hour monthly meeting. Everything is yours to manage…vendor relationships, resources, risks, change orders, schedule, and budget. All of that and then some.

So, on to a few tips that might make your life easier or awake you to things you may not have thought of. Some of these may be obvious to you – but maybe not to everyone…so I’ll cover them here.

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Taking a Timeout

project time outTaking a timeout. Taking a break on a busy project on your plate of work that you are performing. Sounds like a vacation, right? Well, I’m not exactly talking about a vacation. What I’m really talking about is taking some time off – temporarily – from a project that is suddenly sucking all of your time and leaving you with no time to properly oversee the other three projects you are currently managing. And that means that it’s taking all your time away from the three separate teams on those other three projects and it’s taking all of your time away from those other three very important project customers. Or perhaps you need to take a break from one or more of your ‘slow projects’ for a couple of weeks to work through issues on your problematic project.

I realize that one project isn’t likely taking all of your time away from your other projects, but I do know how one project can become so laden with issues or so burdensome from tasks or the customer can demand so much attention suddenly that you have little time to spend your other projects. And those projects still have needs – budgets to manage, resources to oversee and direct, customers to manage and engage.

How do you make it all work? How do you spend enough time on the burdensome project to meet its needs and work through it while still at least maintaining the other projects you are managing in proper status so as not to lose ground on them and cause the customers on those projects any needs for concern about your ability to deliver a successful project? How do you do it?

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Defining a 7 Day Work Week

Most projects only require work to occur between Monday and Friday, however, there are some projects that will require a full seven-day working week. The standard calendar in FastTrack Schedule 10 is pre-defined to allow a 5 day Monday-Friday working week, but in scenarios where you need to work 7 days you can quickly and easily change this setting.

To change your calendar so that it allows a 7 day work week we will first go to Project > Work Calendars.


Work Calendars Dialogue

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3 Reasons My Business Analyst is Better Than Your Business Analyst

business analystGood project managers value their project team members highly and build their egos along the way through the project engagement until the project is over. As many “good jobs”, “way to goes”, and “wows” you can give them the better. And the more you can say that in front of the project client, executive management, and the rest of the team, the better as well. Don’t overdo it, of course, but certainly don’t be understated. Build them up – you won’t be sorry. Everyone likes positive praise now and then, right?

To that end, I’d like to outline my three reasons why, on technical implementations, my business analyst (BA) is better than yours. I realize this is all hypothetical. I don’t know you, I don’t know your business analyst, and I certainly don’t know if you are managing IT projects. But this is basically a list of what a good business analyst – from my experience – has brought to the table for me and the projects I manage.

Without further ado, here’s my list…

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Good Requirements Come From a Detailed Scope

good project requirementsI realize that sometimes requirements and scope are used interchangeably. In many discussions, the picture of the detailed requirements become the overall scope of the project that you then protect with oversight and change orders.

But there is also some work that has to happen up front to create that scope – that overall vision for the project and what will and won’t be included and what the ‘as-is’ will become. That overall scope of the project must be well-defined jointly with the customer so that everyone is working from a common vision before the first detailed requirement is written.

Good scope = good requirements

The team that can work closely with the project sponsor and customer team to define a detailed scope for the project will be more efficient and will work through the requirements definition process with the customer more effectively. The earlier you define scope, the more productive – and accurate – your requirement definition process will be. Work done before scope definition is usually wasted effort. An early scope definition keeps requirements writers from diverging, reduces requirement inconsistencies, and keeps the big picture in view. It also shortens the time required for requirement writing and rewriting and reduces conflicts, debates and inaccuracies.

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Inserting Images into FastTrack Schedule Files

In our projects we keep track of data such as Dates, Durations, Cost, and Resources. There are sometimes cases when we need to keep track of additional items, such as the visual progress of a project. One way that we can accomplish this is by adding images to our tasks in order to help differentiate between points of progress. In FastTrack Schedule 10 we have several different options for adding images directly to our schedules.

To start, we can add up to 10 Image Columns to our schedule. These will allow us to insert 10 different images for every activity. These different images can be used to show visual progress from start to finish on a task, or to even identify a product that will be delivered. You also have the ability to add an image directly to the Timeline Graph. When doing this you can scale and format the image, and even add pointers to show that it is directly related to a specific task.

To start, we will add a custom image column to the file. Go to Insert > Column > Image 1 and select OK to add the image column to your file. To then add an image into the column double click in the Image 1 column for the corresponding activity.


Double Click


This will cause a Browse dialogue to open, where you can search through saved files for the desired image. When you have found the image, select it and press Open. This will add a thumbnail of the image into the Image 1 column.


Image 1 Insert Image

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FastTrack Schedule 10 Rated Best Project Management Software

Best Project Management Software Award 2013

It’s great to be recognized. It’s even better to be named the best. FastTrack Schedule 10 has received Review Authority’s Best Project Management Software Award. FastTrack Schedule earned top marks in the Ease of Use and Customer Support categories and received an overall score of 96.

FastTrack Schedule ScorecardFastTrack Schedule topped not one, but two versions of Microsoft Project as well as Oracle’s Primavera P6. For MS Project users or those who need to exchange data with someone who uses MS Project, it’s great to know that FastTrack Schedule 10 (Windows and Mac versions) and FastTrack Schedule Go (our new iPad version) open Microsoft Project MPP, MPT, and XML files.

Review Authority’s process involves an in-depth analysis of best performing project management companies in areas including ease of use, overall performance, customer support, GUI interface, and collaboration. Client evaluations of competing project management software companies are contacted in order to obtain their unique inputs and suggestions on the software companies they have used.

Thanks again to Review Authority for the recognition and to all our customers who rely on FastTrack Schedule to plan, manage, and achieve their project goals. If you’re not using FastTrack, download a free FastTrack Schedule trial version and give it a go.