As a consultant, you're regularly called upon to provide clients with an objective analysis of their business. Companies rely on consultants to give them the straight scoop — free of politics or bias — about an organization's strengths and weaknesses. They also need you to provide the best options for solving that business's problems, meeting challenges, and improving their overall performance and value. A consultant's ability to compile and deliver this information is key.
Before you can get to this stage, you must first communicate to the client the path you'll take and the parameters that will define your project. A solid project plan, scope statement, and timeline is the backbone of any successful project — and effectively communicating these factors to the client early is integral to a smooth consultant/client relationship.
Have you ever put in extra hours to meet client expectations and deliver components that weren't part of your original scope discussion? Or worked overtime in preparation to start a project immediately, at the client's request, only to find yourself waiting for necessary information or personnel promised by the client, but never delivered? Have you ever been caught in a whirlpool of brainstorming sessions or follow-up trainings? Or, perhaps worst of all, have you received payment far later than expected, or earlier, but with an unforeseen "early-payment discount" figured in?
Seasoned consultants are familiar with the pitfalls of proceeding on a project that lacks a well-defined plan and isn't completely supported by client buy-in.
Use the following tools and information to help you prepare for your next project and prevent unexpected obstacles.
- Develop and present project plans, scope, and timeline (Article)
Learn how to communicate information surrounding a project's timeline, deliverables, and billing to set the right expectations for your client.
- A short course in project management (Book excerpt) (Article)
Understand the "project triangle" of time, cost, and scope, and how it relates to project success.
- Project resource plan (Template)
Identify, plan, and track your project resources with this easy Word template.
- Project plan (Template)
Use this InfoPath template to pull together project details before you build a more refined project plan.
- Project management plan (Template)
Plan and track your project with this detailed template for Microsoft Office Project.
- Scope statement (Template)
Start your project with a clear statement of the processes, assumptions, and deliverables.
- Timeline (Template)
Map out your project timeline in a familiar Excel format.
- Timeline (U.S. units) (Template)
Create a detailed timeline for presentation with Visio 2003.
- Project overview presentation (Template)
Use this PowerPoint tool to present project information to your managers or clients.