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Basic Project Management Steps: Clarity, Collaboration and Cognition
By Clare Munn

We all know managing projects is really about managing personalities and communication. We also all know styles of personalities are as complicated as different learning styles and as bizarre as various communication styles. Therefore, the approach my company takes is to create some effortless structure; throw in some basic applications and then wrap it with rules that anyone can understand. Once this is in place, we have seen the various personalities (mine included) become less ‘different’ and less of a hindrance on the project, completing it on time and on budget.

There are seven titles here, and even if you don’t have time to read the entire blog, if you simply make sure the seven titles are addressed, you’ll be on the way to a successful outcome.

1. Scope Clarification

  • Make sure the scope of the project is clearly defined in one document called: Internal project scope for ABC Co. This will include:
  • Who is the client? Website included
  • Client point person(s)
  • Relevant research – where can it be found?
  • What is the project?
  • What is the goal – really, it’s your goal to make sure this is met.
  • What is the absolute timeframe? Have you padded the timeframe a little to make sure you are covered with miscellaneous happenings?

2. Contract Clarification

  • Where is the signed SOW? Also find out, should this be seen by all team members or just the client executives and agency executives?
  • Team: names, contact info and roles and goals for each team member
  • Note: Have all team members signed a mutual non disclosure
  • If there are any contractors and are all 1099’s in order?

3. Online Clarification and Organization

  • Create another document called: Internal Data for ABC Project: This document will show where the files are stored online i.e. Basecamp? Dropbox? Both? Others?
  • Who should be invited to the project management tools you are using?
  • Who is the admin for these tools?
  • Do you need a kick off training session on how best to use your choice of online project management?
  • Should client also have a separate folder?
  • Do relevant people have passwords?

4. Payment Cognition

  • Is the client payment process understood? Is it all in place? Do you need to talk with your accounting department and make sure they have all relevant information?

5. Budgeting Cognition

  • Budget: sometimes the entire budget is not openly shown or sometimes what is shown are the hours per scope of work so people understand. Our rule is that the more transparent you can be the better.
  • What are hours per budgeted for this project? Have you padded the hours by 20% for misc.? Best to be conservative versus over optimistic. The client wants what they signed up for: “Be on time and on budget and deliver what we all agreed to.”

6. Kickoff Collaboration

  • Are you prepared for the internal kickoff meeting to make sure everyone knows relevant information?
  • Do you have an agenda? Did the client agree to the agenda before the kickoff so to feel included and also clear?
  • Are you prepared for the client kickoff meeting so the client feels ‘safe’ and also included?
  • Have you included all key stake holders in this agenda prior to kickoff so everyone relevant is heard?
  • Are you including a strategic framework in the kickoff meeting?
  • Are you making sure the kickoff is set up so it is a working session and a lot of the key foundation information will be created in this meeting?

7. Communication Collaboration and Organization

  • What documents are already organized and what else is needed from the client?
  • What should the files be called? My rule of thumb is files and folders within Dropbox or Basecamp are named after the proposal’s deliverables so it is effortless for both the client and the agency to understand and keep track.
  • Do you understand how the client wants you to submit reports? Sometimes a client likes to use their own templates so they don’t have to do a bunch of editing before submitting to their direct reports.
  • Do you have a clear Creative Brief template prepared?
  • Content template deck prepared? Etc.
  • What project is this similar to, so you can reference and walk your team through the similarities and best practices?
  • Do you have weekly status templates in order? Does everyone understand this and when they need to submit their hours and status to you in order for you to have time to prepare for the client status report? And is the communications process understood by the client and internally? I.e. Once a week calls on xx date and time.
  • Are some using some other apps like Google docs? Or only Basecamp? Do you need to make a decision for only one app in order to avoid confusion?
  • Is all contact info and conference call numbers uploaded on Basecamp so people can refer to it? Use free conference call if possible.
  • Is Skype set up, is there credit for long distance, and are video cameras available for all users. Very inexpensive and easy to set up.
  • Are all team members on ichat or alternative IM tools too
  • Are the metrics clearly defined with process for tracking?
  • Are the review meetings scheduled within a given time frame (i.e. 6- months) to view results and tweak strategy?
  • Is the team excited about this project? Are you excited about this project? This is a crucial step for a successful outcome.
  • Have fun. Be on time and on budget and/or warn the client as soon as you see there might be a change looming. Never surprise the client or your colleagues. Be 10 steps ahead. Be you.

Good luck, and I hope you found some of this helpful.

Clare Munn is the CEO at TCG, a company focusing on the convergence of communication and human collaboration. Clare’s expertise revolves around creating a strategy to enable intelligent and monetizable online presences for both internal and external use. Her clients include Clients include Cisco, eBay, Roche, Eddie Bauer, AMD, McKesson, Sierra Club, and Montgomery.

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