Notwithstanding popular John Grisham novels, most project Clients are not children. They can be individuals or organizations who use the services and expertise of a separate individual or firm to deliver a unique product, service, or result. In our personal lives, we often play the role of Client. We: engage with contractors to maintain and repair household equipment such as appliances; take our cars to mechanics for regular check-ups; and have our hair cut at salons. Some of those example arrangements involve a formal, legal contract, some don’t. For the purposes of this post, let’s focus on projects with an external Client. That is, there is a legal arrangement in place to generate one or more deliverables, and one organization is the Buyer (the Client’s organization), and the other is the Seller (the consulting firm).
This article is the latest in a series of posts that examines project roles (see table below). We’re slowly working our way from left to right, and we’ve reached the section on Client Roles.
Regular readers of this space may wonder about the difference between the Senior Customer Representative (a Managerial Role) and the Client (a Client Role). The Senior Customer Representative is engaged on a regular basis with the project team. This person will provide strategic direction, receive status reports, discuss issues, partner with the Seller to troubleshoot problems, and assess Seller deliverables (to name just a few responsibilities). Within the Buyer organization, he or she acts very similarly to a Sponsor: the Senior Customer Representative is a supporter of the Seller’s project team as well as the work it performs.
The Client refers to the Buyer organization. Although the Senior Customer Representative may be the most visible face to the project team of the Buyer company, it is important to recognize the larger force at play. Anyone who has ever developed a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis understands that external forces beyond an organization’s control have an impact on company operations and financials. For example, many industries are influenced by government regulations such in Pharmaceuticals, Defense, or Construction. When new restrictions or requirements are levied, companies within those industries must comply or face stiff penalties. This could mean changes to project priority, scope, cost, or schedule, and the astute Project Manager needs to understand the bigger framework in which the Seller organization operates. Even better if the Project Manager can anticipate the changes and proactively engage with the Buyer organization to manage them advantageously for the Client.
Next time, let’s discuss the End User, who may be a different individual or organization than the Buyer. See you then.