Make Sure Your Team Meets Your Deadlines – Even When the Customer is Not Meeting Theirs

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Many project managers face situations where they are asked to meet fixed dates with very little, if any, margin for slippage. It is hard enough to manage the dates on your own team, but sometimes your customers magnify the challenge by not meeting their commitments. For instance, they may not be available when you need them or they may not approve critical deliverables when they say they will. This can lead to more project delays. 
From a project management perspective, you need to proactively utilize risk managementissues management and proactive communication to your best advantage.
  • Manage customer deadlines as a risk. Identifying customer responsiveness as a risk allows you to communicate the concern and maintain focus on the risk throughout the project. It also allows you to identify additional activities that will help you manage this risk.
  • Manage communication and expectations. Proactive communications will help ensure that your customers understand what is expected of them and the consequences of missing their deadline dates.
  • Manage missed deadlines as an issue. If the customers end up not meeting their dates in spite of your risk management plans, then you have an issue that needs to be addressed. Issues management (problem identification and resolution) needs to be performed. You do not have direct authority over the customers, so the issues management process helps you gain more visibility from your manager and the customer managers for helping to resolve project resource problems.
Although it appears that you are being held accountable for customer behavior that is not within your control, you do have control over the processes you use to manage the project. Manage risk, communication and issues proactively and utilize your manager and your sponsor to try to get everyone focused on meeting the deadlines.


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