I took over a new project. These were my initial questions

I recently decided to do some freelancing. To be precise, I wanted to work as an independent IT project manager. The opportunity to gain further experience and make some extra income while being flexible really appealed to me.

I also wanted to have enough time to write for you on TacticalProjectManager.com.

So I asked within my network whether anybody knew about a freelancing opportunity in IT. To my surprise, it didn’t take long until I was offered a job: An exciting project management role at a client in Northern Germany.

Like with every project, there were many questions going through my head. Will I enjoy the work? Will it be easy or will it be hard?

Yesterday I had a first meeting with the service provider that hired me.

Over lunch I got an initial briefing during which I asked a lot of questions.

Here is what I wanted to know:

“What is the project about?”

Notes
I took a lot of notes

The most important question. This is the same as the project goal but it goes deeper. I also wanted to know a little about the history of the company and the project.

Where is the company coming from? What business are they in? Why did they decide to launch the project? What have they tried before?

With some background information and a clear understanding of the project’s goal I’m able to focus on the issues that really matter.

You might wonder why I also asked about the history.

I’ll tell you why.

If for example the company has always struggled with rolling out new IT systems, I might run into the same problems. So I better be prepared! Maybe the staff isn’t well-qualified or there is resistance from employees or trade unions.

“What does the project organization look like?”

The project organization are the people and roles involved in the project. Of course I need to know whom to speak to, and as I’m bad with names, it’s good to have some extra time for memorizing.

project organizationBy roles I am referring to the job types that are involved. The most common roles in an IT project are:

  • project management (me)
  • data migration
  • development
  • training

Besides these technical roles you also have people working in specific business functions like sales, materials management, accounting or marketing.

For each role in a project there is usually at least one person assigned (sometimes a 2nd person as backup).

“What challenges do you see?”

Before I accept a project, I want to know what to expect. I want to prepare myself mentally for what I will be working on over many months.

challenge

Instead of fooling myself by saying “oh, everything will be fine” I like to see the challenges coming and deal with them in a smart way.

Every project has its own challenges, for example:

  • tight project deadlines
  • skill level of the team members
  • office politics
  • company culture
  • difficult people (they are everywhere)

“What do you want me to do next?”

The launch phase is usually the most hectic one. You have to create a project plan, make estimations, speak to a lot of people, get the buy-in from the management and so on. It is important to get the first steps right.

I also asked this question because it makes a good impression. Nobody wants a passive project manager who just gets his butt up when he’s asked to do so. You want to show that you are a leader who can get things done.

Finally, by being pro-active you can can influence how things will evolve.

Here’s what I want to know from you:

  • Did you ever accept a project (or a job) that turned out really bad?
  • What did you learn from this experience?

Tell me in the comments!

–Adrian

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