As project managers we often walk the fine line between working to meet our customer's needs and trying to understand our organization's needs and goals and what our senior management wants accomplished. While these should be obvious, that is not always the case. I often find myself as a project manager putting the customer first because they're paying the bills and they are the individuals that I am working with on a daily basis. They are the ones I'm providing status reports to and leading my team on long-term engagements for. They are my client. For the immediate future, they are my boss, in a way. That's how I usually try to look at it and it may be why my customer's usually really like the way I manage projects for them. But acting in this manner without truly understanding what your senior management needs from the engagement can frustrate them and you really want to avoid that.
What I find sometimes difficult, is making time to understand and meet my senior leadership's expectations for the project - especially if those differ somewhat from the planned goals of the project that have been established with the customer. Just as you layout plans with the customer at kickoff on how the engagement is going to be managed, it's a good idea to get some of that same info from your senior leadership. I'm not really talking about the minute details of how the project is going to be managed throughout the engagement. At this point they should trust your leadership and PM skills and should have some processes in place that you are expected to follow. What I'm really talking about here is understanding what specific project information they want on an ongoing basis and what things do they want you to pay special attention to and maybe even alert them on during the project activities.
In case your senior leadership doesn't spell this out for you, let's discuss of few possibilities that you can bring up or suggest to them to keep them as satisfied during the engagement as you hope to make your customer.
Provide weekly project financial status
You're likely (hopefully!) already getting the financial information for your project from accounting and from your project management software to create a rolling project budget actuals and forecast report for you, your team, and possibly even your customer. This is great information to provide to your senior leadership because you know they have fiscal reporting responsibilities to their higher ups. Show them what you're putting together weekly and see if it's something they want to see. I'm betting they'll want to see it.
Provide copies of the weekly status reports
Some supervisors want status reports and schedules and some don't. It's usually best to provide too much information and then taper back if they say they don't need it all. Show them the schedule you produce with the web-based project management software tool and ask if that's what they want to see on an ongoing basis. Most online project management software tools allow for customized reporting - perhaps they'll want to see a different view.
Also, show them the weekly status report. At a minimum, they usually want that delivered to them so they can reference it if a call ever comes in from the customer or if they need to consolidate the information into a higher-level status report that they provide to C-levels in the organization.
Look for change order opportunities
Your senior management may have a goal for every project or a broad goal across the board have how much additional revenue they hope to bring in from change orders. Most projects experience some change while in progress and many of those changes - when properly managed - can result in additional revenue for the project. If your management is always hoping for an additional 10% of revenue from each project in the way of change orders - based on historical information - it's nice to know that up front if you're the project manager. It's always good to know those ‘unwritten' expectations that you may be being evaluated against that you never knew existed. Ask. And then keep your eyes and ears open for those revenue opportunities.
Brad Egeland is an IT/Project Management consultant and author with over 25 years of software development, management, and project management experience leading initiatives in Manufacturing, Government Contracting, Gaming and Hospitality, Retail Operations, Aviation and Airline, Pharmaceutical, Start-ups, Healthcare, Higher Education, Non-profit, High-Tech, Engineering and general IT. Brad is a married, Christian father of 7 living in Las Vegas, NV. Visit Brad's site at http://www.bradegeland.com/.