How consultants can deliver successful projects – | Region & Cash

The implementation of successful projects is the core of every consulting company. However, as project environments become more complex, consultants must carefully — and consistently — track each phase of the project delivery cycle, from setting the right scope and allocating resources to meeting deliverables and milestones.

According to a recent study by the Project Management Institute, nearly 10% of all project investments are wasted due to poor project performance. Meanwhile, dozens of studies over the years have warned that more than half (or even about two-thirds) of projects (all) fail to meet their goals.

For consulting firms, optimizing project execution is at the heart of everything they do – that’s how they keep their promise to customers, get their brilliant credentials, and ultimately continue to grow their business.

How consultants can deliver successful projects

In their playbook How Consulting Firms Win, Deltek experts outline how consulting firms can structure their project management process to be successful in project delivery. A summary of the six pillars for great project execution:

1. Realistic & measurable milestones for the project

This may seem obvious. Broken down, however, this means that before work begins, a number of project milestones, including small ones, and measurement criteria are set that all stakeholders have agreed on. You’ll learn from the start who your sources of information will be and make sure they’re available to support the work. Automation technology can help here.

Setting the right milestones helps ensure early wins for everyone involved. Schedule a kickoff meeting and regular status meetings to track progress. This allows your project team to quickly show value while getting to know the client organization. Similarly, with every expectation met, the customer gains confidence and paves the way for constructive dialogue when real problem-solving takes place.

2. Clear and regular communication

Consultants excel at providing consistent, easy-to-understand updates, specifying exactly what they need when requesting information, and responding immediately when questions or problems arise.

And while it’s natural for professionals to stick to standard industry terminology and assume audiences are familiar with the jargon, the most useful communications clearly appeal to a broad, non-technical audience.

3. Accurate timing

Outstanding project execution encompasses more than the customer’s end product. Accurate internal documentation, especially over time, is critical to future project success and your company’s profitability.

Successful consultants have good systems in place for tracking time throughout the project pipeline, from identifying and pursuing an opportunity through bidding, winning, and executing the project. A complete time account tells the true story of a project’s profitability and becomes management’s best tool to inform future activities, estimates and work schedules.

4. Quality Assurance

Quality assurance is easier to perform in a small project team, where team members work closely together to build on each other’s efforts. Larger projects and teams require a more clearly defined quality assurance process.

Mistakes or near misses of past projects can suggest natural quality checkpoints in new projects. At each stage, build third-party verification into milestones to ask critical questions and improve clarity.

5. Timely Reporting

Access to reliable, real-time information on all aspects of project progress can mean the difference between clean, successful delivery and messy, delayed project failure. This is another area where a project management tool will help – by providing data both at the project level and for the company as a whole (as opposed to just financial data at the company level). A project management tool also provides instant access to various aspects of project status to support critical decisions on the fly.

The best project managers set clear expectations about what information is reported from which systems, and how and when they need it. Whether it’s tracking time and resources, making sure the team is on schedule, or even ensuring the hours are being billed to and paid for by the client, timely reporting informs good decisions when corrective action is warranted.

6. Effective Collaboration

A small, tight project team is inherently collaborative. Teams like this replicate successful projects because transparency is relatively easy when only a few people are involved.

More complex projects and larger teams require deliberate collaboration, and project management sets the tone for team members to work together. Visibility is an important tool – ideally, everyone involved can see (and understand) project data and reports, and participate in decisions about how best to move forward.

Checklist for Deploying Project Management

To be successful in project delivery, consultants should ensure that several key elements of the master plan are in place. A checklist:

  • Ensure a solid project management methodology and plan is in place – with external dependencies and constraints clearly documented.
  • Have team members—implementing the project—create client estimates and, if possible, conduct a peer review.
  • Take the extra time to ensure customer requirements are documented, linked to business requirements, reviewed with customers, and approved.
  • Make sure all subcontractors have separate, thorough and clear project management plans – particularly in relation to effort and cost estimates.
  • Create a communication plan that includes a schedule for an internal kickoff meeting, customer kickoff meeting, project status meetings, and customer meetings. Post minutes for each of these meetings.
  • Clearly define an escalation path or process for the project.
  • Ensure a formal process to hear and capture customer satisfaction for quality delivered, project communication, technical skills and more.
  • Set up weekly meetings to review plans and update status with key team members.
  • Create a process for team members to raise issues, risks, questions, and change requests. Assign cases to specific people who track actions and closures. Monitor the impact on project scope, time, and cost.
  • Create a project organization chart that includes all stakeholders – including the customer and third parties.
  • For each project, create a RACI chart that clearly defines who is responsible (R), accountable (A), consulted (C), and informed (I).
  • Develop a contingency plan to anticipate the turnover of key assets.
  • Double check that the technical skills of the team are deep and comprehensive enough to deliver the project.
  • Leverage a scalable project management platform and software that gives back time and resources to profitable activities.
  • Evaluate your project using a matrix of project, financial and resource data. Identify what you would have done differently. Remember, the difference between good and great is in the details.

The Deltek How Consulting Firms Win report is a handbook to help consulting firm executives achieve competitive wins in project delivery, growth, profitability and talent.

Author: Amine

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