At times it feels like the Salesperson shepherding a project opportunity through the sales pipeline gets a lot of beatings… first, by the Customer who has a need and may not realize it, then by the Service Delivery team as the opportunity goes through the Engineering Review process.
All of this happens only for the salesperson to be beaten up again by the Customer in order to close the deal. That’s pretty rough, huh?
And heaven help us if after all these beatings, the closed opportunity project goes sideways, and the lost profit almost takes the MSP under.
Creating Project Management Workflows at your msp
For an IT Managed Service Provider, developing profitable Project Opportunity/Management workflows does not come easily.
The difficulty stems from a number of factors…
- The need for Sales and Service Delivery to cooperate
- The jargon and processes are neither a Sales process nor a Service Delivery process
- Service Delivery needs to slow down, think, plan, communicate and execute in a very noisy environment – not something a reactive break/fix culture tends to do
- The opportunity requires more responsibility and communication from Sales than almost any other opportunities – also something new to the Managed Service Provider
- All Employees need to think differently when it comes to Project Opportunities
So why do we do it?
- It is a necessary evil, as it is the MSP’s responsibility to keep the network up-to-date and operating at the most recent standards
- The billable hour‘s rate is higher than other work
- It has high visibility and is different than the run–of–the–mill break/fix
- The Engineers assigned to projects seem to have a higher status than the rest of us
While the title shows three sets of stages, there actually are four:
- Sales Again
- Project Management
The transition from Sales to Sales/Engineering then back to Sales is one of cooperation as the Customers’ needs are morphed into a Proposal, Project Scope of Work (SoW), Bill of Materials (BoM), Proposal Project, and supporting documentation.
Whereas the transition from Closed Op to Project Management moves in one direction as Sales is released from their responsibility and Project Management takes over.
Here, the term Project Management is used very loosely and refers to the person who is responsible for managing the project. The person could be a PMI Certified PMP Project Manager, a PMI Certified or non-certified Project Coordinator, a Service Manager, Service Coordinator, or Sr. Engineer. As you know, we commonly use the term Project Manager as the role they play in the situation rather than the title they wear.
Note: Moving from a New to a Closed Opportunity can be tracked in Stages through the Sales Opportunity Pipeline. Projects are tracked by Phases from Initiation through Close-Out. Together they make one Workflow from Sales through Project Completion.
Here is the Sales Pipeline with Embedded Engineering Review:
Stage 1: Opportunity is identified, and New Opportunity is created by Sales
Stage 2: Qualifying the Opportunity and Customer by Sales
Stage 2b: For new Customers, a Network Assessment is inserted into the Sales process and performed by Service Delivery
Stage 3: Draft Proposal and supporting documents are created by Sales
Stage 4: SoW, BoM, Labor Estimate and Proposal Projects are created by Service Delivery
Stage 5: Final proposal with SoW and supporting Documentation is created by Sales
Stage 6: Engineering reviews the proposal and either approves or requests clarification by Service Delivery
Stage 7: Salesperson provides clarification information – Sales
Stage 8: Engineering approves – Service Delivery
Stage 9: Proposal is presented to the Customer by Sales
Stage 10: Deal is Signed, and Op Closed by Sales
Transitioning from Sales to Project Management:
Project Initiation Phase:
1. Thank you to the Customer by both Sales and Project Manager
2. Project Manager collects all needed information
- BoM is verified, and parts ordered
- Project scheduling is put into place
- All Sales Opportunity Documentation
3. A What Was Sold (WWS) meeting is held
Note: This ends both the project initiation phase and Sales to Project Management transition. From this point on, Sales is released from project responsibility (Sales retains Customer Relationship responsibility). Now, the person managing the project is responsible for bringing the project to completion on time and within budget.
The Rest of the Project Management Phases:
- Planning time for Lead Tech and specialty Engineers
- Regularly scheduled Customer facing conference calls
- Execution of the Project Plan
Close Out Phase:
- IT Support team acceptance checklist
- Documentation is completed and all Client Docs updated
- Customer acceptance meeting
- Lessons Learned
This article is both an overview and an oversimplification of the process. While the Sales, Sales/Engineer, and Project Manager’s tasks are laid out, all of the Supporting Characters needed to pull off a project are not mentioned.
The article does lay out a totally different workflow, mindset, category of tasks, and tickets that are needed for an MSP to successfully manage more than a few projects at a time.
Today, the MSP industry is in an environment (mostly due to the Win 7 & Server 2008 EoL) where many MSP’s are struggling to spin up a project management skill set. The solution is to pause long enough to plan a process that segments projects from all other workflows and clearly defines what is and what is not a project.