Marketing your projects
EXECUTIVE SPEAK VIEWPOINTS
BY MICHEL THIRY, PMP
If you ask yourself: “What makes my project or program valuable for my organization?” Most likely, the answer will be: “Achieving stakeholders’ (more specifically senior managers’ and customers’) needs, both current and prospective.”
In that context, strategy and marketing are more closely linked than ever before. “Real marketing is the philosophy of management which recognizes that the success of the enterprise is sustainable only if it can organize to meet the current and prospective needs of the customers more effectively than the competition,” says Peter Doyle, head of the Executive and MBA Programs at the University of Warwick, U.K.
In a recent discussion, Anne Bound-ford, program manager with Sweet & Maxwell (Thomson Group), told me that project managers she has worked with generally see the point of marketing their projects to stakeholders, although they are not always sure how to do this. However, she argues that the key issue is that very few have a grasp of how relevant their organization's marketing strategy is to them. For example:
■ The IT industry continually adjusts its strategies to new developments in the market—either consumer demands or competitors’ products—and have developed agile and iterative development
■ For the last 20 years, Volvo has had a stable, well-marketed development strategy based on passenger safety
■ Following 11 September 2001, airports had to move form a pure cost-cutting strategy and add a safety focus, not only to follow new government rules, but also to retain their market share with airlines
■ In the early 1980s Coca-Cola introduced the “New” Coke and then had to reinvent Coca-Cola “Classic” when customers massively shunned the move.
When project and program managers cannot adapt to these marketing strategies and changes, their projects cannot support the organization. Marketing requires you to understand your business, target the right people and maintain mutually rewarding relationships. “Until you truly and deeply explore and understand the definition of your business, you cannot possibly begin to take advantage of the opportunities before you,” says Bob Schmetterer, chairman and CEO of Euro RSCG Worldwide.
First, know how your organization is structured, including its relationship with customers. Customers are the lifeblood of an organization and therefore yours too, so try to understand your organization's customers and their aspirations. Customers talk to your executives; they can make or break your program or project. You must be aware of their needs and ensure that they know how you can help them fulfill them.
In practice, you should seek out your company's marketing plan or, if your company doesn't have a clearly defined marketing strategy, gain insight from sales, account managers or bid managers, and learn about their sales and customer service strategy.
Be familiar with the priority and hierarchy your organization gives to customer needs and demands, and make sure your project is aligned with these priorities and emphasizes deliverables that support them. Seek out expectations of your key stakeholders and see how well your project objectives match them. Demonstrate that you understand project charters and project plans that support the marketing strategy.
Gaining sustained and active funding and support from your sponsors requires you to:
1 Market your projects—or programs—to your stakeholders.
2 Understand you organization's marketing strategy.
Put your project in the context of the business! See it in the context of the marketing strategy and customer relationship. Then, market the deliverables that are meaningful to the business strategy. And don't forget that, the tougher the times, the more your project has to compete for resources and align with strategic goals. PM
Michel Thiry, PMP, is the author of Value Management Practice and regularly writes and reviews for the International Journal of Project Management.
AUGUST 2005 | PM NETWORK