For an IT Service Manager, the execution phase of a Project can be the easiest stage to manage. At times you’ll even feel like you can sit back, put your feet up, and enjoy a Pina Colada — but then reality sets in.
Being a New IT Project Manager (PM), Execution of a Project Sounds Easy…
And it is. Well, as easy as herding cats – and it is pretty much the same process. In other words, it can be challenging to:
- Ensure the customer is informed
- Keep the Lead Technician on time
- Stay on budget
- Meet everyone’s expectations
New IT Project Managers also have to accomplish all those tasks while keeping open communication with Accounting.
At times it’s hard to tell if the most important thing to focus on – is to make sure Incident response service requests (Break/Fix) are not torpedoing the project, or to inform to the customer about the latest change and the price that accompanies it.
If Being an IT Service Manager/Project Manager Was Easy, Anyone Could Do It.
It’s easy enough to assume that all these things would occur naturally, but in recent conversations with PMs, it appears to be a constant battle. Remember, if being an IT Service Manager was easy (including being a New Project Manager), anyone could do the job.
When you find yourself struggling to juggle all these responsibilities, that is where a solid communication plan becomes critical.
IT Service Managers: 3 Keys to Effective Communication Plans
I. Rhythm –
- Weekly calls with the customer are vital.
- Set agendas for the calls to decrease talk time.
- Change requests/cost on the agenda. This sets the expectation with the customer so they are prepared.
- Email conference call summary to 360/RACI/Stakeholders, including Accounting. Summary to highlights are:
a.) Action items with who owns them
b.) Change Requests – where in the change request process they are at
c.) Milestone updates
d.) Other comments or information
- Daily updates from the Lead Tech sent to the customer (copied to you)
- Weekly time sheet review making sure Incident response is reasonable
- Who needs to know what – by when and how?
- What comes into play:
- For those who leverage the RACI chart, update when anyone says, “I did not know,” who needs to know. Carry Lessons Learned forward in updating the RACI chart template.*
- The closer to the execution of the project, more detail is required. The further away, using bullet points may be more efficient.
- The When is similar: Those closest to the project need daily updates. Weekly updates should be fine for those further away. Accounting is likely content with just monthly updates.
- The How is ever changing. We used to use faxes, then email. Today Instant Messaging and collaboration tools are the norm. Conference calls are used if a lot of interaction is needed to provide an update, collaborate, or drive a decision. The key is to capture in writing anything that is going to impact time, budget, quality or future projects.
III. Tools and Technology
- Tools and Technology falls into three broad categories:
For the IT Service Manager/New Project Manager, the tool of choice is going to be what they are familiar with. Excel is still one of the top tools used today. For something more project-management oriented and MS Projects, Primavera is probably too much tool for situation.
The most common one you will see used is the Project Management module in the Professional Service Application (PSA) tool. Time set aside today to learn the available project management tools will go a long way to saving time, frustration, and stress in the future.
Here’s Your Bonus Tip on Communications…
We already touched on this topic fairly well in the previous section. However, to say the least, the IT Service Manager needs to be fluent in writing, phones, IM, collaboration tools (and more) to be successful. I once was told that Outlook is not typically used as a document management system, but I have found that it serves me quite well.
- IT Service Delivery struggles, in general, with keeping documentation up-to-date and accessible when needed. Projects are no different in this regard.
- The key here is in four main areas of Documentation:
- Good documentation in the initiation phase, driving the handoff from Sales to Project Team.
- Good planning documentation.
- Good closeout documentation going from Project Team to IT Support Team.
And last but certainly not least…
4. Lessons Learned (LLs)
Have I mentioned these? Have I mentioned them too much? Have I mentioned them enough? No…never enough, so it is worth repeating here:
LLs are critical in being able to scale the company’s project management capabilities. IT Service Managers can grow their project management skillset by:
- Knowing what went wrong so it can be prevented/mitigated in the future, and
- Updating the many templates to speed up the project management process going forward
This, of course, is all done through Hard-Knocks University.
As always, Doug Rabold and I are standing by to answer your project management questions for non-Project Managers.
For more about Stephen Buyze
For more information about MSP-Ignite Service Manager Peer Groups