Client Engagement in a Virtual World
Dana Civitano, PMP
In a virtual world, we rely on technology to bring a team together through various means: teleconference, web sharing, email, voicemail, etc. When starting a new project, having a structured, well-planned kick off meeting is fundamental to the project’s success. Too often a need is identified, emails are sent, people will jump right in on the work. Then midway through the project they run into road blocks, skyrocketing costs, loss of personnel and/or the customer is not happy with the progress and product.
These risks can be mitigated through a carefully planned and communicated kick-off meeting. A project owner/manager must have their pre-work (charter, SOW, stakeholder identification, interviews, communication plan, etc.) in place and ready for the meeting. I like to schedule kick off meetings in two stages: the first is the overview with the stakeholder and the team; the second is where the core team contributes to the project schedule to flesh out, identify specific risks and actions and leave with clearly defined tasks.
Introduction and Setting the Tone
There is an opportunity to set a positive, energetic tone for the project team. As this is the first part of the kick-off meeting, this meeting should include the stakeholders, team members and service provider (who is the PM). Being a part of a virtual team, I like to take the first 15-20 minutes of the call to go around the horn and have everyone introduce themselves, their title and role in the organization. I have worked with PMs that do their introduction and then state that they are a Phillies fan, for example, and attend games frequently. It helps break the ice.
Project Charter/SOW High Level Review
These should be on the agenda and reviewed first at a high level. Ideally, the SOW/PC has been reviewed by the PM and the clients prior to this call. This will help the team identify the problem, the proposed solution and the method of how this will be achieved. There should be an open discussion on any issues, concerns, etc. so they can be captured and reviewed by the project team.
Roles and Responsibilities
It is very important to capture clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each team member. Who will own certain deliverables? Who will be in attendance on the weekly project calls and who will delegate in the case that a team member is unable to attend? Another key role is the decision maker – the person responsible for change management approval. This will help avoid any responsibility/personnel issues during the project execution.
Review High Level Project Plan
A prepared PM will have created a high level project plan for the team to review. A web share should be utilized so that everyone can review the plan at the same time. Perform a high level review of the milestones and tasks, discuss and assign a task for the team at the end of the call to review the plan on their own; to make notes on tasks, risks, resources, etc. The core team will come back together on the second part of the kick-off meeting to dive into the schedule. This is an excellent way to have additional tasks and identify risks. It will also foster engagement and ownership by the team associated with the project.
Tools and Reporting Methods
On the web share, present an outline of how the project will be tracked, what the action item registry is and the format. Set a time and duration for the weekly project calls to structure the meetings and gain acceptance. Identify how meeting minutes will be captured and sent out.
Once these key topics are discussed, schedule the second part of the kick off meeting. This second meeting consists of the core team members for the project.
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