You know, one of the challenges about being a Project Manager is the pressure you face in producing deliverables.
You simply can’t imagine that you can continue to create deliverables on time, on budget and meet all the quality criteria set out by your stakeholders.
In fact, I know someone who could not take the pressure of having multiple deliverables due all the time, and decided to quit his PM career.
To make matters worse, you’ll find that the pace of modern business and technology is just so fast, you often can’t keep up work-wise.
All this is enough to make you question whether Project Manager is for you as a career.
The stark reality is that developing project deliverables within tight timeframes requires a strong level of resilience and grit.
That being said, there are some good techniques you can use to make sure you produce high quality deliverables, on time and on budget – without losing your sanity. In this article, I’d like to share with you five simple ways you can help ensure that your project deliverables are met, to the satisfaction of all your stakeholders – they’re simple enough for you to apply right away. Armed with this knowledge, hopefully you’ll be much better at navigating and managing those project deliverables to get some solid project outcomes.
Method 1: Re-Use Project Assets
One of the first steps you must take is to to always make sure you re-use your existing or past project assets – if you have a minute or Steering Committee template, re-use it. If you have a Business Requirements template, re-use it. Now, I know this is easier said than done. It’s never easy to just directly “re-use” the existing documents are templates you have – you often need to customize and fine-tune the stuff to make sure it fits your specific stakeholders.
But here’s the thing. You can do a number of things to improve the “re-usability” of your project assets.
I’d say one of the most important things is to adopt a mindset of re-use throughout your projects – these days, I make sure I keep copying any documentation that may be useful to me as a Project Manager in future.
And it doesn’t stop there. You should also create a full library (preferably with proper indexing and search capability) – so that any future colleague can easily retrieve that information.
Here’s a real-life example as a reference.
I was once trying to start up a project for a core banking system implementation for a Malaysian bank. Those of you who know about these implementations will appreciate the stress I was under.
When I observed this, I realized I had to get some serious help – there were easily 50+ documents to create (project plans, stakeholder management plans, use cases, issue logs, deployment checklists, cutover procedures, etc.).
Well, then what happened, you ask? I managed to find an experience Senior Project Manager who had run at least 10 core banking projects from start to end. He was so experienced he could give me a “stock” core banking project plan off the bat.
And here’s what happened in the end: The materials and coaching he gave me helped me tremendously. I could re-use a lot of the assets and particularly in areas I wasn’t very sure of, e.g. vendor quality checklists – which turned out to be SO useful.
If you’re interested in how to re-use project assets and harvest them for your new initiatives, do check out this page for more information.
Method 2: Monitor Your List of Deliverables / Product Backlog
The second thing you need to do is to is to monitor your list of deliverables (or, in agile terminology, the Product Backlog) LIKE A HAWK.
One of the challenges you may face is the fact that you need to you often don’t have visibility into how much each deliverable has already been completed – especially if you have a 100+ man team.
Over the years, I’ve learnt a secret as to how you can get around this. What you need to do is to if make sure you create a list of deliverables / Product Backlog right up front in the project and walk around with this list EVERYDAY.
Also, I think it is crucial to also give your team members the flexibility to define their completion dates against their deliverables – don’t be a tyrant and force completion dates on your team. They need to tell you what they’re comfortable with.
As an additional point, make sure you prioritize the deliverables that are in-scope – I’ve often seen PMs who put in deliverables that are not relevant to the true outcomes of a project – and that is just a waste of time.
If you’re interested in how you can create deliverable checklists or Product Backlogs and monitor them, do check out this page for more detailed information.
Method 3: Know The Content
Ok, on to another important point. You need to make sure, as Project Manager, that you’re across the CONTENT of the deliverables being produced.
The challenge in doing this is that you you may not be an expert in each area, e.g. you may not know what the BA is doing for requirements, what the deployment manager did in his cutover checklist. Well, there are a number of things you can actually do.
First, commit to building up your own skill set. You see, TOO MANY project managers I know are “paper pushers” – they keep track of deliverable dates, statuses, issues and risks. But if you ask them what is wrong with the loan origination system and what is the blocker preventing a sign-off, they need a BA or Tester to comment.
Well, I’d say that this – building up your own skill sets and understanding of project delivery items – is easily one of the most important things you need to do because a PM with content skills are valued by your stakeholders, particularly if it is industry content. For example, bankers like PMs who know banking, healthcare professionals like PMs who know healthcare.
Second, try to learn about the solution set in your project – if you’re delivering a core banking project, learn about the core banking software (e.g. Temenos, Finacle, or what have you).
Here’s a practical example I observed over the years.
A friend of mine was a PM in an insurance CRM project implementation. She struggled with understanding why her team could not meet the deliverable deadlines during the requirements phase of the project.
I saw this and I immediately felt I had to provide her with some tips – particularly since many of her team members did come to me to say she didn’t understand the underlying root causes and issues the team faced.
Well, it turns out that She actually didn’t want to listen to her team and continued focusing on her work plan, scheduling, PM tracking, etc. – ignoring the true business needs and solutioning needed for project success.
And in the end many of the project stakeholders decided she wasn’t fit for the role and booted her out of the project. So the lessons learnt is to understand the content and underlying root causes of what your team is going through – so you better understand the deliverables being produced.
If you need to find out more about how to build up your content and knowledge around an industry or solution skill set, do check out this resource for more in-depth information.
Method 4: Build in A QA Stage Gate
It’s really, really critical to understand the process by which you produce deliverables in a project.
You see, one of the problems with us Project Managers (or even employees, for that matter) is that we don’t look up from our day-to-day work.
We don’t really see that a deliverable, when it is being produced, may lack quality or has some inherent errors.
If you fail to see this, you will necessarily end up in a place where you deliverables don’t get to the level of quality you need.
So do yourself a big favor and try to build in a mechanism to monitor deliverable quality.
Also, here’s a good trick I used in the past to help me with this.
I installed what I call “Stage Gates” into the project process. Every deliverable had to be reviewed by myself and a content expert before it was released to the user or stakeholder signing off the document. The advantage of doing this, of course, is that you get more eyes on the product before it is released – drastically improving project deliverable quality and timeliness.
Method 5: Warm Up Your Stakeholders
A good tip for you is to also get your stakeholders warmed up to your deliverbales, PRIOR to the sign-off stage.
However, you should note that it is never easy to get stakeholders’ time – many of my clients have very busy stakeholders who can only meet you once a week or every two weeks.
For example, it may be difficult for you to step through page by page of a Project Plan or Business Requirements Document with the Head of Finance.
What you can do in this instance is to “prepare for the meeting by summarizing key highlights of your document in a summary slide. Even better, catch the Head of Finance when he or she is having a smoke, coffee break, etc. and keep talking to him or her about what your deliverable is about. Here’s the thing: People are people after all – if you keep highlighting or explain something to a stakeholder again and again, over time – he or she will start buying into the idea. This makes your project deliverable sign-off SO MUCH EASIER.
” Oh, and here’s an additional secret I have to mention … be generous with your client – buy them coffee, get them lunch. Many PMs I know just operate on a strictly business basis, and don’t try to get to know their stakeholders as friends. That’s a mistake – a friend who is an important stakeholder can help do wonders for you in driving initiatives or decisions forward. You need to cultivate that kind of relationship.
If you need more information about stakeholder management, do check out this solid resource – it’ll give you quite a bit of information you need. In summary, I want to leave you with some key takeaways that we’ve discussed regarding how PMs can ensure project deliverables’ quality and deadlines are met. One very important point you must bear in mind is that you need to do the hygiene stuff – re-use old project assets where possible, monitor your list of deliverables closely, understand the content and also build quality Stage Gates into your project process.
The other key thing is to remember that project deliverables are consumed by PEOPLE. You need to build relationships with yur stakeholders in order to make them comfortable with what you’re producing. And if they aren’t, then with your relationship, you’re still better able to negotiate for alternative outcomes.
And that’s it! I hope you enjoyed this article. If you want to learn more about project management and how you can grow in your career, do feel free to check out this link here.