Project Management

Managing Your First External Project

Andy Jordan is President of Roffensian Consulting S.A., a Roatan, Honduras-based management consulting firm with a comprehensive project management practice. Andy always appreciates feedback and discussion on the issues raised in his articles and can be reached at Andy's new book Risk Management for Project Driven Organizations is now available.

Being a project manager can be daunting, but being a project manager in charge of an external project can be truly terrifying. These are the projects where the customer is a real, paying client, not an internal department.

In addition to all the usual client stakeholder management activities, the project manager also must be the day-to-day face of the organization. And depending on the type of project it is, they may be doing that at the client’s location where the PM and members of the team are the only people from the organization around.

Organizations usually try to give new PMs some experience on internal projects before exposing them to real customers. That allows the basic project management skills to develop and provides some experience to rely on. It helps the PM to feel more comfortable, and it serves to reassure the customer that the project manager assigned to their work knows what they are doing.

But because the first external project is not usually the first project, organizations don’t always acknowledge just how challenging these initiatives can be.

An expanded skill set
Managing external projects requires an expanded set of skills, and often those are not skills that the PM has acquired through formal training programs. Clients cannot be treated as “just” another stakeholder for several reasons:

  • They lack context and …

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Don't be humble. You're not that great.

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