Productivity, Project Management

Why the Professional Services Project Life Cycle Needs More Focus on Collaboration

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The standard project life cycle has been used by countless companies to manage their business processes for many years despite the growing complexities surrounding project management. However, the complexities involved in professional services organization projects have reached a critical point where a new life cycle model is required for success.Most importantly, professional services organizations (PSOs) that follow the standard project life cycle run the risk of making the same mistakes during the following project, and the next one and so on. This can happen if effective collaboration is not taking place during the professional services project life cycle. A feedback loop or the ability to learn from past mistakes between the completion of one project and the initiation of the next project is needed to ensure efficient project delivery.

To succeed in this new era, services organizations need to better understand and implement collaboration throughout the life cycle.

What are the Phases in the Professional Services Project Life Cycle?

  • Phase 1: The Sell Phase - The Sell phase begins when professional services are first demanded by clients, but before the business is actually won. This phase is unique to the professional services project life cycle because the standard project life cycle does not start until a project kicks off. Professional services, however, require a pre-project phase to organize the complexities associated with professional service projects.
  • Phase 2: The Plan Phase - This phase is focused on scheduling and staffing projects at a professional services organization. The Plan Phase gets underway once a project contract has been signed and resources are beginning to be allocated across tasks. Not to be confused with the standard life cycle “Planning Phase,” the professional services “Plan Phase” requires a bit more time and attention from team members.
  • Phase 3: The Deliver Phase - This phase is also referred to as the execution phase of the project. During the Deliver Phase, the plan that was previously developed is set into motion and all resources and tools are moved to their respective duties.
  • Phase 4: The Account & Bill Phase - The Account & Bill Phase is dedicated to recognizing revenue and financial opportunities. This is a unique phase that does not exist in the standard life cycle description, as professional services teams must keep track of the return on investment when they sign on to projects to recognize the true cost of a project.
  • Phase 5: The Analyze Phase - This phase was created specifically to better serve the complexities within PSOs. The Analyze Phase only exists in the postmortem phase of the standard four-step project life cycle model, which causes issues because project, client, or resource feedback is typically not useful after projects are completed. Unlike the standard life cycle, the Professional Services Life Cycle includes analysis before the project has closed and before it starts.

The Importance of Collaboration in the Professional Services Project Life Cycle

So why is collaboration relegated to only the delivery phase within the current professional services project life cycle?

While the delivery phase is where the majority of collaboration between individual team members, multiple teams, and various departments will take place within a services organization, the professional services lifecycle is dependent on collaboration taking place across the entire lifecycle.

If collaboration breaks down at any phase in the lifecycle, it will have an adverse impact on the services organization’s ability to deliver a successful project and its clients, who will likely be dissatisfied by results that did not live up to their expectations.

However, effective, well-structured collaboration that leverages an individual’s strengths to benefit the team and the organization can have a positive impact on projects. The potential benefits emphasize that collaboration is imperative to the project lifecycle. However, collaboration efforts need a modern solution that enables collaboration and eliminates the creation of data silos. As illustrated by Netsuite, the most successful professional services firms leverage integrated technology that supports a culture of collaboration.

How to Enable Better Collaboration

Enabling and enforcing continual collaboration through the project life cycle takes time and effort, as well as some changes to business processes. But if businesses lower the organizational barriers to collaboration, allow more feedback from other departments, and share authority over a project between multiple team members, clients, team members, and the organization will benefit handsomely.

One major step that services firms can take to enable better collaboration is to improve their tech stack. In the past, tech stacks have created siloing between departments, making access and analysis of data collected and stored by specific teams invisible to the rest of the organization. Today, an Operational System of Record can prevent data siloing by integrated critical systems across an organization for more effective collaboration on insights.

However, businesses still lag behind on these technology efforts. According to a Forrester research report, just 24 percent of information workers believe their office is completely up to date and equipped with the latest and greatest technology and digital workspaces.

If your organization is working to improve collaboration, consider inviting senior managers to collaborate in projects more often. As highlighted by Harvard Business Review, providing these influential team members with visibility into the project life cycle will encourage them to collaborate if they are initially hesitant. Inviting influential colleagues into client projects sets a precedent for collaboration and can encourage more team members to collaborate in the future.

Supporting Projects with Mavenlink’s Contextual Collaboration

As an Operational System of Record, Mavenlink’s contextual collaboration capabilities are helping professional services organizations around the world work together more effectively on projects, individual tasks, timelines, budget approvals, and more. Learn more in our Project Collaboration page.

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