The role of the project client seems simple at first glance. In reality, however, it is very versatile and changes during the project.
In the initial phase of a project, the project client is the main initiator, making important decisions and providing the necessary resources.
The implementation phase requires intermediate results and makes trendsetting design decisions. During the completion of the project, he formally accepts the project and releases the project manager from his tasks and duties
The most important task of the project client
The project client must take time for the project
The reasons for the failure of the projects are unclear and uncoordinated project orders, the lack of project resources already at the beginning of a project, and the lack of availability of many project clients, which is lamented everywhere.
These are all tasks and responsibilities of the client and not the project manager. The role of the project client in the commissioning of the project and Managing the project development process is very important and puts great demands on managers in project-oriented companies.
Awareness of tasks and competencies, as well as professional management of conflicts between the project and the line, are central tasks that the project client must master. The active perception of the function throughout the project is of decisive importance.
Although the project client is not directly involved in the day-to-day work of the project, there are important interfaces and contact points where the client significantly determines and influences the success of a project.
The perfect project client
He has a lot of power in the company.
He has a high understanding of project management and knows his tasks and responsibilities as a project client.
He has a great interest in the success of his project.
He ensures that “his” project has sufficient human resources and budget.
Gives his project manager a clear project task.
It regularly takes time for the project manager to coordinate his work.
Actively supports the project and the project manager in case of difficulties and problems in the project.
Tasks of the project client
Choosing the project manager
Choosing the “right” project manager often leads to success or failure. Not everyone is suitable as a project manager. The most important premises that a project manager must bring are personality traits, such as leadership skills, the ability to work in a team, the ability to cope with conflicts, and the ability to self-reflect, to mention here only the most important features.
Another important criterion of requirement is the procedural and methodical competence of project management. A well-trained and experienced project manager masters a wide portfolio of project management methodologies and knows how to integrate them into the project management process as design elements.
Last but not least, when selecting a project manager, you must also pay attention to the content of the project to be implemented. If, for example, it is a project with a strong character of change, the experience in organizational issues and change processes has a great value, as well as the recognition of the project manager in the company and among managers.
Clear assignment of tasks to the project manager
In practice, it is quite rare for a client to entrust the project manager with a precise and written project task. The mission is more likely to be verbal – usually between doors, by phone, or email.
In such cases, the project manager is obliged to systematically research the progress of the project initiation so far and to collect information about previous events and decisions. A structured project order serves as a basis for coordination with the client.
The result is a jointly developed point of view, with a clear specification of the strategic direction, measurable targets, and clear priorities for the project manager.
Acquisition of the necessary resources for the project
Many projects fail due to a lack of project resources. Selecting project team members and completing the roles defined in the project are delicate procedures and require a lot of experience and tact. Often the reasons are the lack of availability of important know-how operators or the lack of understanding between line managers for the importance of project work. The result is an open conflict between the project and the line, which mainly affects the progress of the project.
The precise implementation of the specifications by the management is possible only if the project manager receives from the client the necessary specialized knowledge and the appropriate financial and personnel resources.
If the specific resources required cannot be covered internally, the missing knowledge must be acquired on the open market. This is often a very difficult negotiation process between the project client and the project manager, who is not the least influenced by the importance and significance of the project.
The larger this is for the whole company, the easier it will be for the project manager to convince his client of the need for external resources. However, if the project is small and does not have a particular impact on the business strategy, it is more likely to be delayed than to incur additional costs for external assistance.
In the implementation phase of a project, the client must make important and pending decisions to ensure progress in the project. Preliminary work is carried out by the project manager and his team, who regularly monitor the real state of the project and record any deviations from the course.
In the case of deviations with minor consequences, the project manager can usually decide for himself and initiate measures. However, in most cases, critical deviations from the course require additional resources and budget. In this case, the client must be consulted.
It is recommended to institutionalize a meeting with the project clients about the project development. The client is informed about the intermediate results at regular intervals and can make important decisions very quickly, if necessary.
The external representation of project interests
One of the most important tasks of the project client is to externally represent the interests of the project and thus support the operational work of the project team. In concrete terms, this means conducting project marketing and providing stakeholders with up-to-date information.
In many cases, a project faces a multitude of internal and external influences that can promote or hinder the project. The specific task for the project client includes all measures to align the interests of the project with the requirements of the environment. The results are fewer conflicts, creating understanding and increasing acceptance with the affected environmental groups.
“You cannot do without a project client!”
Support of the project manager in case of problems and crises
As a rule, project crises should be prevented by applying professional project management. However, since many companies are not yet optimally prepared for project management, extreme situations arise again and again in practice, which poses an existential threat to the project and sometimes to the company as well.
This requires the direct intervention of the project client, who thus faces a high social complexity and a great deal of decision-making pressure. After a negotiation process that is usually politically powerful, the client proclaims the crisis of the project and installs a team whose task is to investigate the causes and take immediate action.
This is often only possible with the support of external people who develop crisis management proposals with their neutral vision. The project crisis is officially ended by the client.
The project client must develop a general understanding of the complete project development process and, in particular, actively model and fulfill its role. Successful project management requires a continuous relationship between the client and the project manager.
The client is an important external representative of the project’s interests and always intervenes actively in events where the personal authority and competence of the project manager are no longer sufficient.
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