A few weeks back, it was my turn to be the project manager for one of DS24's client projects. The project was with a property consultancy; I knew nothing about the company or the project itself at the beginning of the week and so the learning curve from Monday onwards was quite steep.
The following is a brain-dump of the challenges we faced throughout the week with some tips on how to approach project management. If you are unfamiliar with how the projects work in the DS, each week through the middle 8 weeks of training, different cohorts have the opportunity work on a week-long project, either with real clients or an internal project.
Prepare in advance
In my experience, each Monday was the most stressful part of every project. The kick-off call in the morning with the client always went well, however, having a good idea of what the work entails and divvying up the workload accordingly to the cohort was really difficult. Gleaning as much information the week before about the client, and if possible having a call with the client is very useful.
In terms of structuring the project, I found it really useful to prepare a load of questions to ask in the client call, as well as creating a basic plan for the week - making sure to include any time where any of the cohort were not available. Other than that, there was not a huge amount more to be done because I was not given that much project-relevant information in advance.
Throughout the week, we met a heap of challenges as a team. The client call went well, but we had to wait until the Monday afternoon for any data to come through. As a team we split up the workload as best we could without any data, but then reallocated some work so to make more time for ourselves later in the day.
Once the data landed we spent the rest of the day (and a lot of the week) trying to get our heads around the shear amount of files there were. Be resourceful: ask lots of questions on Convo as other people have gone through the same thing; if you know one of your team is good at something, or wants to work on a particular aspect of the project then try to get them working on that; make a plan for the week. This last point may sound obvious, but without properly scheduling the week's work, it is almost impossible to get a good idea of the work that needs to be done or work to any sort of timeline. Of course the plan will always change, but having a solid starting point is really useful.
Under promise, over deliver
During the week, we were struggling with the workload. I was trying my best to help with the different aspects of the project, and getting my head around all the finer details of people's dashboards, but I always felt like I was spread too thinly across everyone's sections to really make a difference. What really helped was to have a constant dialogue with the client (who were very good at answering their emails) - ASK LOTS OF QUESTIONS - and also to lower their expectations in terms of what we could deliver. We negotiated to remove a section from their requirements which benefitted the project as a whole.
In the end the client was really happy with what we produced, so this is a really key point to be realistic in what you can achieve in a week.
People always underestimate the amount of time it takes to format and do a full project run through for the presentation. In the final few hours of the project, it makes more of a difference to the presentation if you work on what you are going to say rather than fixing that final chart in your dashboard. So make sure there is half an hour or so to run properly go through the presentations.
Relax, and stay professional.