The Customer is always right

You need to understand that as the Project Manager, you have many customers, you have the external customers, and the internal customers. The experienced Project Manager learns to understand the customers point of view and then take that into account with his actions.

If you do not know what it is your customer really wants then it is possible that you will deliver something that he doesn’t want. You could even put 80% of effort into achieving something on the project that is only 20% important to the customer.

The challenges come when dealing with internal and external customers, it is highly likely that the two customers will have completely different priorities. This is where you must use your skill as both Project Manager and negotiator, if you understand what drives both parties then you will be able to establish the right course of action to recommend supported by factual information gathered.

Depending on your position in the company will depend on you next course of action, if the external customer is insisting on a certain course of action and this is at odds to your internal customer then it will be time to escalate to the correct authority internally within your organisation. This will normally be your boss or functional manager, despite your feelings on the situation, the call will be with him/her, but will probably be down to you to take the good news back to your external customer.


Issue Management

If you think that your project has no issues, then you should be very worried, its not so much that you haven’t got issues, its that you don’t know what they are.

It is not showing weakness to get your project issues out in the open, its more a case of sticking your head in the sand until they cause you problems, and they almost certainly will.

So on to the topic in hand, Issue Management, well what is it?

Issue Management is the process of getting all of your know issues out in the open, documented, thought about and given to owners to either mitigate them or resolve them. This isn’t all on you, although as the project manager you want to own the risk register.

The risk register can be a simple excel spreadsheet with a list of all know issues, you can start by getting the risks out of your head into the spreadsheet and then draft in other project members to brainstorm the rest.

Once you have the issues down in the spreadsheet, you can work through them identifying in a similar way to a risk register which are the big ones with the most impact.

Your next task is to identify owners for each of the issues, it is the owners responsibility to either resolve the issue or mitigate its potential effect.

As the owner of the issues register, it is your responsibility to periodically call the issue owners to account and confirm the issue status. Once an issue is closed down, or resolved, it is marked as such, do not delete it as you will want the history to remain available for the end of project wash up or along the way if anyone raises the same issue.

If your project meetings are often enough, then the issues register can become an agenda item, not only will it remind the attendees to check on their issues, it will enable you to maintain an accurate status of the issues and their history. Depending on the type of project you are running, you may need to have an internal and external issue register as internal issues may not be appropriate for an external audience.

Jason Pope