A Triangle of Four Sides:

There is a famous truism, any client wants three things. Low Cost, High Quality and Fast Delivery. It is also generally regarded as a truism that a project can only deliver on two of those three things. If you want it fast and good, it's going to be expensive. Top quality and cheap? Well, that’s going to take a great deal of time to deliver. Fast and cheap? well how many take aways offer haute cuisine?

There is a similar tension (and I hesitate to use the word because it is a little pejorative and that is not the case) between the goals of Account Management, Project Management, Technical Services and Creative Design. In many ways, the relative power of these four areas in any given company will define how that company operates and the focus of delivery. You can't make all four elements happy at the same time because their departmental priorities are not identical,

Account Management's core ethos is client satisfaction, it's not about giving the client what they asked for, it's about trying to give the client what they want, if not more than they want to build a relationship with the client bigger than any single project. Project Management is about delivering to the clients requirements. It's not about making the client happy, it's about meeting the companies commitments to the client and the clients stated outline. Its a of-times subtle distinction, but a very real one. Technical Services is about code elegance and re-usability, at least in a truly OO environment. How much proven code, infrastructure and approach can be re-purposed. This minimizes risk, streamlines delivery and allows focus to fall on the new features requested. Creative Design concerns itself with how we can create something which engages the end user and therefore there is a tendency towards innovation and risk taking, setting this project apart from the others in the same space.

Project Management:

Tensions with:

  • Account Management: Where there is a gap between the signed off requirements and what the client actually expects to be delivered tensions between these two areas creep in, what takes primacy the project budget/deliverables or the client satisfaction?
  • Technical Services: Where there is a gap between what the existing systems can do, and what is expected. The tension is ironically greater when these differences are smaller. Large differences are generally planned for, small differences can easily be missed. The PM expects a simple implementation when an obstacle to that is discovered tensions can arrise.
  • Creative Design: Where there is a difference between requirements and creativity, a truely creative and innovative concept can be difficult to cost and plan in advance.
  • Account Management:

    Tensions with: (as above)

  • Technical Services: Reusable technological implementations and back end improvements, unless sold in effectively, tend not to be a client favourite.
  • Creative Design: There tends to be the most synergy here, between innovation & client satisfaction, the conflict is between the Account Managements greater client understanding of what the client is comfortable with and the Creative drive to innovate.
  • Technical Services:

    Tensions with:(as above)

  • Creative Design: The area where Technical Services seeks to provide something which has been done before, whereas Creative attempt to design something completely new. Generally a compromise will leave everyone unhappy. However this can also be an area of remarkable cooperation, where creative and technical teams work in harmony both sides can provide an innovative elegant solution.
  • None of these are absolute. I've known many Techies who have a truly creative and innovative approach, Creative people who have a real and ongoing understanding of the bottom line of project delivery, and even Project Managers willing to take a hit on their budget to give the client a freebie or two without arm twisting or moaning.

    What I hope I have attempted to do with the above, is give some high level outlines to the dynamics you can expect in any project delivery company; awareness that the people you are working with have similar, but not identical to you. Unsderstanding these goals is one of the most important concepts to develop as a Project Manager, unless you are able to understand what your colleagues are trying to achieve, you will struggle to deliver effectively. I have worked on projects where Tech had a far greater pull than other areas, situations where it was very Creative lead, and locations where the client relationship was key. It has helped me plan in the past, getting some of these questions out in the open early allows for additional budget to be put in place, and additional time to accommodate some of these things and by communicating effectively, sometimes you can allow the creative free reign because tech are able to save a lot of time through early engagement and suggesting minor alterations to an approach to allow for faster delivery for example.

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