Each project caters to a defined and discerning audience. Therefore, project managers, just like any great musician, must know who they will cater to and communicate with, taking this into consideration when planning a project.
What do you think the reaction of an audience would be if they went to a concert expecting a classical music performance but were instead regaled by the sounds of a popular heavy metal rock band? Or, how do you think an audience would respond if they went for a hip-hop performance and a ballet ensued? Or, how do you think someone would feel if they found out that they had just missed a performance by their most favorite artist? Everyone above would feel confused, disappointed, and let down.
Consider the projects you manage as a performance. You have to orchestrate a number of performers, there’re various phases or acts as your project progresses, and you ultimately want the audience to stand up and cheer at the end of the performance. In your case, the end of the project. That’s why it’s so critical that you have the right audience engaged and involved from the start of a project to the very end. For the success of any project, it’s critical to have the right people.
Here are 9 ways to identify the correct audience before you start planning a project
1. Get a Head Start on Putting your Project Audience List Together
Once you know that you are going to be a project manager, immediately start thinking about who is going to be included. Think about the purpose of your project, its benefits, some of the challenges that may surface, and other nuances of your project. This will help you put together a solid short list of who to involve in the planning of a project. If you are struggling with putting together a list or only ending up with the obvious attendees (i.e. the client or the project sponsor) then dig deeper by asking these people who else to involve.
2. Consider All Phases of Your Project
When you begin planning a project it’s easy to identify those people to involve at the beginning and possibly into the middle of the project. But, keep in mind that as the project continues down its particular path of completion different people will need to be involved at different times. Think through all of who these people will be from beginning to end. For example, who you do you want to involve at the very end of the project when it comes to closing the project or making sure all the legal requirements are met? These people need to be identified so they can be part of the planning process of a project.
3. Dig Down Until You Identify the Right Audience
When you’re planning a project you need to be mindful to dig down until you find exactly the right group, or even person, that you need to involve in the project planning process. For example, you may know that you need to include the marketing department, but exactly which part? The marketing department is responsible for trade shows, print advertising, the website, social media, and many other aspects that make up your company’s marketing efforts. When planning a project, identify the right audience, otherwise, confusion and disappointment may occur.
4. Compile a List of Each Audience Member’s Name and Position
It’s now time to identify each person in the audience by name and position description. A great place to do this is to assemble a spreadsheet that includes the person’s name, department, title, email address, phone number, and even functional manager (you’ll see why this is important in the next step). Putting a list together like this helps you identify your audience and any obvious gaps that need filling.
5. Include Functional Managers as Part of the Audience List
You may wonder why this is necessary when it comes to planning a project since the functional managers are not the ones that will be doing the actual work. It’s important to include them on the list of audience members (even if it’s just another column next to the resources name) for a couple of reasons. First, you want to establish a very good working relationship with them: as typically they’re directly responsible for accessing and scheduling of the resources in their department. Second, if you find that you aren’t getting the cooperation you need from their resources you can solicit the assistance of their functional manager.
6. Include Resource Names for Each Role your Audience Plays
When planning a project and identifying the resources that will help put the plan together, it’s important to include them with each role they play. Let’s say a technical resource has recently moved to the sales department to help out with pre-sales activity. You need to include their input from both their new position and their former position. Include their name twice on the audience list you are compiling.
7. Keep your List Up-to-Date
Resources will come and go throughout the life-cycle of a project. This is especially true if it goes on for months or years. Make sure your audience list stays current with these changes and continues to stay involved in the aspects of planning a project that are relevant for them. What was important from one person’s perspective may mean nothing to the new person that has taken over the position. You need to make sure your audience understands the current performance or you could receive icy stares and dissatisfaction at the end of the project.
8. Speak to as Many People as Possible
Go WAY beyond your comfort zone when it comes to planning a project and involving the right people. Move beyond just your organizational unit. Expand into other disciplines within your company. Open the door to additional groups of people that you typically do not involve in your projects. The more you involve people in the planning process the less likely you’ll miss including someone you should have.
9. Not Sure Whether to Include Someone?
If there is someone that you’re unsure whether or not to include in your project audience, include them. It’s better to err on the side of inclusion than to fall on the side of exclusion. If someone feels they don’t need to be included when you’re planning a project, they will let you know. If someone feels they SHOULD have been included in the planning of a project, they’ll also let you know. Not only will they let you know, but they’ll also let others around them know. That could be your manager, and even upper executives. They may be not happy that they were not able to provide their input on a project.
Once you have identified all the right people to include when planning a project, begin your discovery sessions with them. These sessions are the following: interviews, workshops, webinars, and other methods of extracting their needs, concerns, risks, and issues. This will pay off dividends as you near the end of your project. Your audience will align 100% with your performance and who knows…you might even end up with a standing ovation!