by Kurt Schroeder and John Seeds
The carpenter phrase “measure twice, cut once” plays a broader role in our society’s mindset than it once did. Understanding the value of preparation and the work that goes into creating a quality product or end result can be critical in delivering a satisfactory experience.
Migrating customers to the cloud is much the same as we understand the process to me discuss it all twice and then start programming and migrating your organization. Unfortunately, many companies skip the first part and start their migrations with the programming and configurations first only to be disappointed with the result that a vendor delivers to them.
Our Senior Director of Innovation Architects, Robert Wakefield-Carl, sat down with our Vice President of Project Management, Laurel Hess, to discover what makes cloud migrations by Avtex so successful.
Vice President, Project Management
As Vice President of the Project Management Office Center of Excellence at Avtex, Laurel Hess manages a team of PMO Managers and Project Managers responsible for the successful delivery of all Avtex solutions. Laurel has a strong track record delivering successful projects at Avtex as a Project Manager and Project Management Leader with a strong focus on customer satisfaction. Laurel has worked in Project Management, Technology Solutions Delivery and Consulting Services for over 25 years.
[Robert] I get to work with a lot of customers when they are making the purchasing decision, but once that has been made, I rarely get to see the behind the scenes from contract to going live, but I do know that our project managers are there every step of the way.
[Laurel] That’s correct! We will assign a project manager, or PM, as soon as the contract is signed who will be the main point of contact and the taskmaster for everyone involved with the project. We entrust them with all the resources they need to carry the project through to completion and they are responsible for complete success on all aspects of the project.
[Robert] That sounds like a lot of work. I have been pulled into a few meetings where misunderstandings and technical issues have stalled a project, but I have never heard our project managers blame the customer or make lame excuses, they take ownership and find a way to move on, something I really appreciated seeing.
[Laurel] We try to instill in each of our PM’s that everything depends on them and they are to treat the customer and our internal resources with equal portions of respect, demands, and education - the latter being one of their main jobs.
[Robert] You don’t mean training, do you? I would assume we have trainers for that.
[Laurel] No, I mean education to the customer of what they purchased, how the features work, and especially educating our engineers on what the customer expects from the software and project - it is a two-way conversation. The PM is not only the bridge between the two but also the gatekeeper. They have to let the customer know when expectations exceed the scope of work and let engineers know how important certain features are to the customer to create a successful outcome.
[Robert] Yes, I can appreciate that coming from the engineering side. Many times, we get caught up in the sophisticated programming and forget that sometimes it is the simple things that please. We have so many projects every year and I almost never hear a complaint about them. What would you attribute that to?
[Laurel] Avtex is a very team-oriented company. You can’t single out one group or function in Avtex for the success of our projects. The overall attitude is that everyone in the company is playing an important part in the success of the company and we treat each customer as an individual with their own way of doing things and learn what is important to each one. It starts with the architects that draw up the scope of work, then the project manager that steps everyone through that project scope. After that, the deployment team dives into the trenches getting everything just right and followed by the trainers and support teams that help customers going forward. It really is a group effort and again, it is the PM that orchestrates this much like a conductor of a symphony that keeps everyone in time and queues the cymbals or trombones for their dramatic entrances at the right time.
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[Robert] Let’s look at that a bit. What are the average responsibilities of the Avtex project manager?
[Laurel] Nothing is average about their jobs. Many of our projects have very unique requirements and often the PMs manage projects with some technologies they have never heard of, they work with multiple customers each day and have to transverse the “geek speak” of engineers when they run into issues. We have PM’s that are technically astute and very good at their main job, keeping the project in scope, on time, and within budget - something every customer appreciates.
[Robert] Are there times when the customer forgets the pre-sales conversation or learns more about their own business mid-project and make demands on the PM to include what they thought was included?
[Laurel] We do have times like that and every project comes with it’s own challenges and discoveries, but adhering to the scope of work and having active communication with the solution architect and sales staff helps to combat those issues. True misunderstandings usually stem from the customer not knowing what they don’t know and the PM’s discovering this when the Business Analyst is going through call flows with the customer or working through a business workflow and they find out it is entirely different than what we all perceived during the sales discovery discussions.
[Robert] Aside from calling in the calvary like I have seen, what usually happens in these cases?
[Laurel] That depends on the depth of the disconnect and the documentation we have in the scope of work. If we have nothing clarifying the disconnect and the customer saying they thought it was included, we usually work with the Account Executive or Client Account Manager to come up with a solution and/or a mutually acceptable change order to meet those demands. The most common disconnect is a customer’s project resource, who may not have been part of the sales cycle, wanting to do things the same way they have always done them instead of the way that was suggested during the sales process utilizing the new platform, features and best practices. We have some amazing engineers, developers and architects that produce some remarkable solutions that the customer can accept.