The pace of business today can be downright frantic at times. Given the scope of activities within a normal project and the number of people involved in even relatively small efforts, PMs often face additional challenges keeping up. Not only does their team have access to more technology tools than ever before, they also have a stable of stakeholder expectations that have changed dramatically in recent years. Everything from routine project meetings to post-mortem reports has shifted toward shorter timelines and broader communications.
If you want to stay ahead of evolving stakeholder expectations, consider the following areas that are often a focal point for project teams and their stakeholders.
Prepare for faster, more inclusive communication loops. Your stakeholders expect to connect with project team members no matter where the various participants are located. This doesn’t just mean on the phone or via e-mail—instant messaging, web chat, and full-featured video conference calling are other communication platforms seeing wider implementation in companies of every size. Many discussions will likely blend internal workers and vendors or other outside partners, so explore which technologies are most commonly used in your contact base and select one or two that can be primary channels for everyone to use.
Provide more on-demand data access. In addition to sharing information with specific team members, stakeholder expectations increasingly include a broad range of project data to be available to them on demand. This translates into a need for several technology and operational platforms. First, using a central system to maintain project data means that everyone—PMs, the project team, sponsors, the executive group, as well as stakeholders—is accessing only one master version of the truth. With that platform in place, look for a system that can integrate into it to make that data available on demand across a variety of devices, including desktops, tablets, smartphones, plus a web portal if at all possible.
Gather useful insight from previous projects. Big data is becoming a staple in many areas of the organization and project management is no exception. Your stakeholders expect you to have detailed historical information to help inform the latest initiative. Be sure you’re ready to compare budget estimates, actual expenditures, staffing levels, schedule deviations, and other key data from past projects against those you have in the planning or active stages now. Other information may also be useful, such as productivity, return on investment, and end user satisfaction.
Leverage technology more effectively. Because software is now at the core of so many things that happen within a project’s lifecycle, stakeholders expect the technologies your team uses to be available to them and to integrate without disrupting their other activities. If you haven’t already developed a strong collaborative relationship with your organization’s IT department, now is the time to do so. You may need to rely on them to repair or replace devices, to deploy systems into new jobsites or work locations, to support remote stakeholders and to keep their communications going if they travel into areas where connectivity is spotty or the infrastructure is unreliable.
Capture cost savings everywhere possible. Just as data analysis tools help PMs review past projects to identify inefficiencies and find trends, stakeholders expect that same type of technology to help uncover new opportunities to save money and minimize resource consumption on your company’s current project list. Even though technology may not enable you to do that on every initiative, you should at least engage your stakeholders in the conversation and show them where analytics were used to look for cost savings and the results of any cost control measures you did undertake.