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Team A working on an exercise during the Advanced Professional Certificate course

Complex clients

Let us assume that you have been appointed by a client and that you have made progress in understanding them, their aims and objectives and their way of working. Then, you are informed that they have made an agreement with another firm who are expert in some aspect of the site or project that your client is not. The commercial logic of the arrangement is understood, but what may not yet have been examined is how the two organisations are going to work together.

As a competent Project Manager, you may immediately suggest that there is a project board, with members drawn from each of the partners, to act as a forum at client level.  That would be a good start, but it does not mean that underlying differences of attitude have gone away, just that there is a place to discuss them. 

An example of this would be risk. Some organisations are much more risk-averse than others, and allergic to certain sorts of risk, such as risk to reputation. Such an organisation may want to take extreme care in working with external stakeholders. Other organisations may be less consultative and more gung-ho. 

So, which attitude is going to prevail in the project in question, and what policies are going to arise from that decision? Another example is the procurement route. The more risk-averse partner may want to avoid the routes that give more exposure (like Construction Management), and instead try to get the contractor to take on most of the risk by used Design and Build. They may favour this even if they realise that a sacrifice in quality may be involved.

Commercial logic may lead to project management situations that are hard to resolve. If the risks are appreciated in good time, then there are various options. The project organisation can be given autonomy so that it can itself be a vehicle for change; or, the job can be re-configured as a programme so as to avoid some of the clashes. All of this depends on the Project manager being wise, experienced, and acting in a timely way.