One of the recurring themes in this blog has been the importance of the vendor project manager. Most organisations purchase CRM technology on the strength of the sales team, with whom their likely to have little to do with once the project commences. The project manager by contrast is the person who can really make or break a project. I’ve been fortunate to work with some very good vendor project managers over the years, so here are the nine qualities I look for:
They’re client oriented – while the project manager is to some extent there to represent the vendor’s interests, it’s important they balance this with an understanding of what the client is looking to achieve. An investment in CRM technology is supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement. The vendor is paid to perform the services, and the client gains the benefits from the technology. A good project manager understands that the focus is not solely on the former.
They have gravitas in their own organisations – on occasion the project manager will need to become an advocate for the client within their own organisation, for example to free up someone to work on the project at short notice or get an issue escalated. An effective project manager has the power to make things happen for their clients when the need arises.
They understand the implementation process – while this might seem an obvious point, it’s amazing how many, often experienced, CRM project managers, do not understand the real mechanics of the implementation process. It’s curiously the exception rather than the rule in my experience to see a project manager deliver an achievable project plan.
They understand the product – the best project managers I’ve worked with understand their products inside out. They’re able to understand how their technologies can better achieve the project objectives, and they’re able, and prepared, to get their hands dirty with the product when the need arises.
They deliver what they promise – nothing beats the reassurance of knowing someone will deliver exactly what they promised and when they promised they would deliver it.
They’re firm when they have to be – from time to time clients will ask for something daft. The easy response is just to go along with it. The best project managers push-back and get them to reconsider.
They’re proactive – they understand what the client needs to be preparing and doing at any stage in the project and makes sure they’re aware of it in advance.
They’re available – the project manager is likely to be working with a potentially demanding portfolio of projects. On the other hand there will be times when the client needs an immediate response or action. The effective project manager is able to juggle priorities and make themselves available when they need to.
They take the long term view – they understand that the potential commercial relationship between client and vendor should last at least as long as the system, and prove rewarding for both parties. The best project managers build a relationship with the client that far outlasts the initial project.
In short; smart, gets things done, and client oriented.
It should be noted that in any CRM project there are two project managers: the vendor project manager, whose ideal qualities I’ve attempted to describe above, and the internal project manager, whose talents need to be a little different (something I will try and cover in a future post). While everyone will have their opinions on what makes for a great vendor project manager (and it would be great if you could add the ones I’ve missed as comments!) the most important thing is to ensure that when you buy a system you assess prospective project managers against what’s most important to you. Often though this isn’t part of the vendor selection process, but this omission could mean you get to work with someone that has none of them.