In this three-part miniseries, we’re going to explore a selection of principles and tools you can use to help you to manage a variety of projects in your practice. In this first part, we’re starting with the roles and relationships: who is involved with your project, what their responsibilities are and how, as the project manager, you should oversee the communications around the project progress and outcomes.
Roles and relationships
In any project there will be people with a variety of roles to play. The roles will vary depending on the scale of the project and they may change over the course of the project’s lifetime.
The main roles within a project may include:
- Project manager: the person with day-to-day responsibility for the project and who has the ultimate responsibility to deliver the project successfully
- Project sponsor: the person on the senior management team or board of directors who has authority over the project and can control access to resources. They will often act as a champion for the project manager
- Technical specialists: people with expertise or particular skills that can be called upon to undertake activities or provide advice on a project
- Quality assurers: for larger projects, a separate person or team will be responsible for ensuring that processes are carried out correctly and meet the required standards
- Buyer: if the project is being carried out for an external organisation (rather than being an in-house project), the buyer is the person who commissions the project and agrees the contract
- Senior user: a person who represents the needs and interests of the end users
- End user(s): The person, group or organisation that will use the outcomes of the project
For a small project, there may only be a few people involved. In these circumstances it is not uncommon for one person to take on multiple roles, potentially acting as project manager, quality assurer and technical specialist
For a small project, there may only be a few people involved. In these circumstances it is not uncommon for one person to take on multiple roles, potentially acting as project manager, quality assurer and technical specialist. For larger-scale projects, roles may be taken by entire departments.
It’s worth noting that the sponsor role in a project management context does not mean someone who offers money for things! A project sponsor is the senior person in the organisation who oversees the project at a high level and is responsible for its good governance. They will often act as a “critical friend” to the project manager and make sure that they are kept accountable.
The sponsor/manager relationship
Running projects in smaller organisations, you may not have a named sponsor, or they may simply be your usual line manager or boss. In larger organisations, as the project manager you are likely to be allocated (or if you’re lucky, invited to choose) a senior person to act as sponsor for the project. The sponsor should:
- Be able and willing to defend and champion the project throughout the organisation
- Be senior enough to authorise spending and other resource allocation
- Be accessible and responsive enough to provide support and guidance where and when needed
- Have the right balance of authority and approachability
Establishing a good sponsor/manager relationship relies on good, open communication – particularly if the sponsor is someone you do not usually work with or who does not know you very well (Figure 1). It can be useful to establish your own role as project manager right at the start of the project, and give your sponsor the confidence that you are the right person to run the project.
A stakeholder is any individual, group or organisation that has an interest or role in the project or will be impacted by it. For example, imagine that you are a head nurse planning to launch a nurse-led dog weight-loss clinic in your practice (Table 1). Who would need to be on board with this and who else might be impacted?
|Project: launch a nurse-led dog weight-loss clinic|
|Nursing team||Will be the ones running the clinics|
|Management team||Will provide the resources and management support for the project|
|Reception team||Will need to understand what the clinics are, how to promote them to clients and how to charge for them|
|Vets||Will need to understand which cases to refer to the clinics and how to promote them to clients|
|Social media manager||Will need to understand how the clinics work and get some photos and testimonials to use for promotion|
|Clients||Will be the ones using the service – will need to feel like the clinics are useful and good value|
|Competitor practices||Will be interested in you launching a new service and potentially attracting their clients|
|Local dog services||Will be interested in a new service available locally and as a potential source of referrals|
The next stage is to consider two factors for each stakeholder:
- Influence: Does this person/group have influence over the project or will they be influenced by the project?
- Attitude: Does this person/group feel positive or negative towards this project?
The results of this activity can then be summarised into a stakeholder analysis matrix (Figure 2). For example, where would you place each stakeholder in the matrix for the nurse clinic example above?
Stakeholder analysis allows project managers to get a better understanding of where to concentrate their time and resources. The analysis should also inform communication plans – deciding who needs to be informed of what and when. If the project is likely to have “detractors” (those who may be opposed to the project), identifying them early is crucial to establish concerns and take steps to move them towards the right side of the matrix.
Establishing the roles and relationships within a project team, and the potential attitudes and influences of those who may be affected by the project, is an essential step in project management. The process allows the project manager to identify areas of focus, maintain appropriate communication with all involved and run the project more smoothly. Next time you have a project to run in your practice, consider who the stakeholders are, what their interests in the project might be and what actions you as the project manager could take to ensure that everyone is as positive about the project as possible.