January 24th, 2020 in Productivity
Project management for consultants is at the forefront of running a successful business. It includes satisfying your client’s needs, delivering results, and ensuring that you make money on the project.
For all of that to be possible, you need to create a plan for the project. You also have to manage the client’s expectations throughout the length of the project. A project management plan also helps your team members know their role and their deliverables. When everyone is on the same page, the project will be more successful.
In this guide to project management for consultants, learn how to streamline your project management process for better results.
You don’t need a “Project Management for Consultants” handbook to make a successful project plan. Start with a simple question; “What needs to happen for you to get from step A to B?” Having the answer to this question makes the journey smoother and involves fewer pivots and unexpected roadblocks.
First, plan out how you will deliver what you have promised your client. From there, decide what is needed to deliver the result using that plan. This could be specific employees, such as analysts, or associates to deliver the results. It could also be software that you need to execute the plan.
Once a plan is solidified, break down the project into smaller tasks and assign responsibility for these tasks among the team. Identify the timeline for each task and what needs to get done first. High risk tasks should be tackled first to avoid unexpected roadblocks later on in the project.
Now, you have an initial project plan, which includes responsibilities, timelines, and priorities of tasks for this project. This project plan will also give you a clear picture of the resources you need to execute this plan. The plan will evolve over the span of the project, but having a solid foundation at the start is important for a project to run as smoothly as possible.
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A project will not seem like a success if the client’s expectations of the deliverable are not aligned with yours. This can happen even if you deliver everything that you promised. This creates friction between the parties, leads to delays, and ultimately results in an unhappy client.
Clear deliverables need to be set at the start of the project. Problems, however, usually arise while the project is in progress. Expectations change and the deliverables are not revisited or properly managed.
The client has a vested interest in the quality of the deliverables. Engage the client in the process and make them feel like they are a part of the team. Managing client expectations and involving them in the process will help you produce deliberables that are approved by everyone involved.
From the client’s perspective, being involved in the process will create transparency. From the perspective of project management for consultants, as the project progresses, there is a real-time feedback loop that converges your project plan with the client’s vision. If the client is involved, it is hard for the client to have unrealistic expectations because they are a direct contributor to the success of the project.
How many times have you had to dig through different applications, multiple emails, and countless personal notes to find information that is crucial for a project? McKinsey reported that an average worker spends about 1.8 hours per day searching and gathering information. To create a smoother, and more efficient, project process, consolidate your information into one place.
Consolidating information in one place reduces wasting productive time on non-productive tasks. It also lessens the inefficiencies this creates for the project team. Having all project communications, deliverables, and files in one accessible location will save crucial time for everyone working on the project. The time saved can then be spent on more productive tasks or be invested in other projects. Time is money, and that is especially true for consultants. Any time wasted is money taken straight off the margin of the project.
Consolidating your project information in one place will make the process more efficient, transparent, and ultimately saves time every day for each member of the project.
Project budget, the cost to date for the project, cost of project resources, and remaining budget are essential numbers for consultants to actively monitor. Knowing the numbers will allow you to adjust plans and minimize or eliminate cost overruns toward the end of the project.
Budgets are initial estimates, however many outside factors influence actual money spend on a project. By tracking project numbers actively, you can adjust the budget of each task to fit the overall budget of the project. This may involve cutting back on services or putting more resources on high-risk tasks.
Without tracking the numbers, the actual cost drifts further from the initial budget and increases the chances of cost overruns. Each extra cost in a project comes directly from your profit margin or from the client. As the project plan changes, project numbers change. Tracking these numbers helps you manage expectations and keep the project profitable.
Similar to consolidating information, creating a repeatable process will save you and your team time that can then be invested elsewhere. In most cases, project management for consultants can be divided into similar processes that need to get done from project to project. Having a project template that incorporates all of the standard processes and tasks saves the project management team from having to manually organize these tasks each time.
By creating an easy-to-follow project template that has common tasks predetermined, you are not starting a new project from a scratch. Your employees will know what deliverables are expected of them. Your project management team can focus on the important deliverables of the project instead of the repeatable processes. Templates cut down on time needed to get the project going. Also, the processes within the template can be tweaked over time to better fit your team and how they operate.