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The Challenge of PM in Engagement Management

If you don’t consider the big picture it is likely that you will work sub-optimally.

All too often, project managers lose track of the context of their projects and all too often managers, clients and client contact people lose track of where PM fits in their process.  Taking a step back and looking at the project context allows us to apply project management methods in a way that is tailored to the needs of the situation at hand.

Engagement management (EM) is a context for project management. Engagement Management is a process that brings together client relations (sales and support), project management, delivery and quality management to satisfy clients.  EM operates across multiple projects and ongoing relationships.  The EM view helps project managers to work more effectively with client contact people (e.g., sales, business analysts, application managers, etc.) to avoid “over-sold” projects and irrational expectations. 

Engagement Management is a process that extends from sales through the closing of an engagement.   An engagement may be a single project or a series of projects and ongoing support activities.  An engagement is embedded in a client relationship and a relationship may involve multiple engagements.

Where does Project Management Fit In? 

Projects are at the heart of an engagement.  Projects deliver the products or services that will satisfy client expectations.  In the engagement management process, we often find that sales people or, in engagements that are within an organization, client relationship managers or functional managers set expectations with clients.  Those expectations evolve into a contract and the contract establishes project constraints – time, cost and scope/quality. 

Thinking that project management begins with the kick-off of the project work under contract or from the moment there is a formally initiated project is a problem.  This kind of thinking leads to projects that have irrational deadlines and budgets.  That leads, in turn, to unmet expectations, dissatisfied clients and sponsors, burned out performers and disharmony in relationships among sales, delivery (technical), PM, support and client relations groups.

Project management work must begin as soon as anyone begins to set time, cost and quality constraints.  Estimating is a precursor to setting deadlines and budgets.  Project planning is required.  Who does the estimating and planning when there is no involvement of PM practitioners and delivery experts in the sales process?  In a healthy engagement management process, there is a project management presence representing the delivery team in proposal creation and contract review by an interdisciplinary management team to decide whether the contract is one that should be signed.  This creates the necessary checks and balances to make sure that sales people or relationship managers do not unilaterally set costs and deadlines just to get the business.  It protects the performance organization and the client.

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George Pitagorsky

George Pitagorsky, integrates core disciplines and applies people centric systems and process thinking to achieve sustainable optimal performance. He is a coach, teacher and consultant. George authored The Zen Approach to Project Management, Managing Conflict and Managing Expectations and IIL’s PM Fundamentals™. He taught meditation at NY Insight Meditation Center for twenty-plus years and created the Conscious Living/Conscious Working and Wisdom in Relationships courses. Until recently, he worked as a CIO at the NYC Department of Education.

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