Laying the Proper Foundation for Legal Project Management The 6 Key Steps for Project Manager Pilots

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1 The 6 Key Steps for Project Manager Pilots This white paper discusses: Understanding the Rules of Project Management Engagement Developing Project Plans Choosing and Staffing Project Teams Managing Group Dynamics and Diverse Groups Utilizing and Leveraging Technology Developing Project Management Processes and Systems

2 in this paper Introduction 3 The Six Key Steps For Project Manager Pilots 3 Project Management Step 1 - Develop The Plan 4 Project Management Step 2 - Assemble The Team and Identify Key Resources 5 Project Management Step 3 - Manage and Utilize Technology Tools and Applications 6 Project Management Step 4 - Manage People and Group Dynamics 7 Project Management Step 5 - Deploy Tactics for Project Success 8 Project Management Step 6 - Conduct a Post Project Analysis 9 Conclusion 9 About the Author 10 About etera Consulting 10

3 Introduction Why is project management getting so much attention today? What has changed during the past few years in the legal industry? The reality is that the legal industry has undergone significant changes largely due to technology and the growth and complexity of electronically stored information. In addition, you have constant pressure to reduce costs and achieve greater efficiencies. Thus, project management enters the picture because it can help teams to better manage information and data, leverage technology, control costs, and achieve greater efficiencies. Project management also helps to get everyone on the same page. In addition, project management adds a layer of accountability not to mention that it is repeatable, measurable and defensible. In order to help lay the proper foundation for legal project management within your organization, let me provide the following key points to keep in mind: Project Management vs. Legal Project Management Regardless of what you call it, the important thing to remember is that you have to utilize the basic rules of project management and apply them to legal projects. Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification vs. Experience While I am advocate for training and education, I will usually select someone with legal project management experience to lead projects regardless of their certifications. Failure to Plan is a Plan to Fail This is an expression that says it all. If you do not plan, you will fail. You must be proactive, not reactive in your approach to managing legal projects regardless of the size, scope and duration of the project itself. Every Project has a Beginning and an End This is an important planning concept to remember. And in doing so, always begin with the end result in mind you must define project success at the beginning. The Cost of Non-Compliance There are a number of risks associated with not being prepared or having a plan. And I for one would not want to have to tell the general counsel or partner in charge that the project failed because there was no plan in place. Never Dismiss Planning as Unnecessary or Avoid it Due to Lack of Time If you are accountable, you must make the time to plan. If you are the project champion, it is your job to lead the planning charge. Key Reading Recommendations The Fast Forward MBA in Project Management by Eric Verzuh is one of the better books I have read on project management and highly recommend it. As Eric Verzuh lays out in the first chapter of his book, project management is the new critical leadership skill for 21st century leaders. In my view, this is a must read book if you work in the legal profession because you will have to manage legal projects of all shapes and sizes throughout your career. In addition, I highly recommend reading Legal Project Management: Control Costs, Meet Schedules, Manage Risks, and Maintain Sanity by Steven B. Levy. The Six Key Steps For Project Manager Pilots I certainly believe that project management is a critical leadership skill in today s business environment and especially for those professionals working within the legal industry. So what happens if you suddenly find yourself managing a project? What should you do if you have to lead the project management planning process? Well, let s start off with a simple analogy to get you thinking the correct way. If you ever (and you will) find yourself in the project management pilot seat, always keep in mind that like a pilot preparing the plane for takeoff, there is always a series of key steps and checklists that must be followed. As the project management pilot, you must also follow a number of key steps and checklists to be successful. Copyright 2012 etera Consulting 3

4 These project management steps and checklists will ensure a consistent planning approach regardless of the size, scope and duration of any legal project you manage. Also keep in mind that the project takeoff is secondary without planning for and executing a flawless project landing. Also remember that as the project management pilot, you are supported by an air traffic control system the project management team who will provide you with information and resources necessary to make sure you stay on course. Your project management air traffic control system will help you stay on top of any potential crash and burn issues and allow you to keep all necessary key action items on your radar screen. As the project management pilot, you are only as good as the support team around you. Keep in mind that one of the basic rules of management is you can t manage what you don t plan for. At least that is one of my own lessons learned. So when it comes to project management, here are the six key steps for you to follow as you prepare for your project takeoff. Step 1 Develop the Project Plan Step 2 Assemble the Project Team and Identify Key Resources Necessary for Success Step 3 Identify and Utilize Appropriate Technology Tools and Applications Step 4 Manage People and Group Dynamics Step 5 Deploy Tactics for Project Success Step 6 Conduct a Post Project Analysis Evaluate Lessons Learned for Your Next Project Takeoff Each of these key six steps has a comprehensive checklist that is part of the project management planning process. You can consider the time spent reading and learning about project management as time spent in the project management pilot flight simulator. Project Management Step 1 - Develop The Plan As a starting point to project management planning, keep in mind that one size does not fit all. Each project must have its own blueprint for success. Each project must be customized with the appropriate level of staffing and resources to achieve the desired end result. Every project will produce an outcome because there is a beginning and an end. There are many different types of legal projects that you and your organization will potentially have to manage. Some of these project types include discovery requests, document reviews, trials, government investigations, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory proceedings, extensive research assignments, and major court filings. For each project type, you will utilize the checklist provided below to ensure a consistent planning process. As a result, you will be well on your way to developing a solid project plan that is measurable, repeatable and legally defensible. As you begin the project management planning process, make sure to incorporate the following key checklist items: Define the size, scope, duration and location of the project including such things as data volume and number of custodians. This is the who, what, where, when, why and how phase of the project. Understand your client expectations and get them on the same page with you. Unfortunately, unrealistic client expectations can derail the planning process. Identify all key internal and external project stakeholders including management, key departments, and outside advisors and consultants. Assess potential project risks, threats and issues. Anticipate the unexpected and do expect changes throughout the project life cycle. Develop the project budget and understand budget constraints. If you are working with outside consultants and vendors, make sure you fully understand their pricing and the services/products they will provide. Establish clear project goals and objectives. Clearly define what you want the end result to be when the project is over. Develop a project organization chart and workflow diagram. These items will be helpful in staffing the project and understanding key processes that will be unique to the project at hand. 4 Copyright 2012 etera Consulting

5 Develop a project timeline outlining the deliverables and milestones to be achieved. This will be very useful in making corrective course changes should it appear deadlines will not be met. Develop a detailed project task list (to do list) with due dates. These tasks can then be assigned to members of the project team when you reach step number two. Develop a chain of command and communication reporting system with tracking metrics. Remember the all important Rule of C: communication and coordination eliminates chaos and confusion. Remember, failure to plan is a plan to fail. And you can t manage what you don t plan for. Project Management Step 2 - Assemble The Team and Identify Key Resources One size does not fit all. Each project must have its own blueprint for success. In addition, each project must be customized with the appropriate level of staffing and resources to achieve the desired end result. Thus, the next step in the project management planning process is to assemble your team and identify the resources you will need for success. As the project management pilot, you are supported by an air traffic control system the team you select who will provide you with information and support necessary to make sure you stay on course. Your project management air traffic control system consisting of people and resources will help you stay on top of any potential crash and burn issues and allow you to keep all necessary key action items on your radar screen. As the project management pilot, you are only as good as the air traffic control system supporting you. Since building your project air traffic control system (people and resources) is critical for success, let s review the required checklist that must be followed. Working with the Project Champion As the project management pilot, you will have to work very closely with the project champion. The project champion is the person who is leading the charge and serving as the advocate for project management success. The project champion could be the general counsel, law firm partner or associate, department head or the actual client. Yes, it is very possible for the project pilot and project champion to be one of the same but very often they are not. As project management pilot, you have to make sure that your passenger the project champion has a smooth flight and successful landing. Determine the Project Staffing Requirements How many people will you need and for how long? What knowledge, skills and abilities do you need to achieve project success? What backgrounds and level of experience do you need on your team? What are the key roles and responsibilities to be filled on the project? Are their people available to work on the project inside the organization or do you need to utilize staffing agencies to build your project swat-team? The ability to leverage and manage just-in-time staffing resources is important to your project success. Do not ignore the importance of soft skills in selecting your team members. Determine What is Needed from Service Providers and Consultants In addition to staffing the project with the team members you need, are there services or products that you require from outside companies? Very often, you will find yourself working with software providers, electronic discovery companies and trial consultants on litigation driven projects. Most likely, your organization already has a preferred list of companies to work with. If not, this is a good time to call your trusted advisor or seek referrals from your network of contacts. You simply may not have enough time to go through a lengthy vendor identification and selection process. Determine Workspace and Office Equipment Requirements Workspace and office equipment may not be an issue on smaller projects. However, if you are managing a large team such as a document review project, the need for workspace and office equipment most notably computers must be addressed. At this point, you will want to involve your office manager or facilities manager for options. If you will work with an outside agency for staffing, inquire about the workspace they may provide. For example, several staffing agencies provide document review facilities. If possible, make sure that the team is working in close proximity to each other especially if you are managing a document review project. Copyright 2012 etera Consulting 5

6 Assess What Additional Resources are Needed In addition to people, service providers, space and equipment, you must determine what additional resources will be required. This of course will largely depend on the nature of the project itself. For example, I once managed a large research project for a litigation matter and had to utilize several research tools. Some of the basic resources you may utilize over and over again include copy vendors, courier services, delivery companies, office supplies, cab companies and food delivery. You will be absolutely surprised how these little things can save you so much time and energy if properly addressed at the beginning of the project. Don t ignore them as not being important. The little things are always important especially to your team members. Develop a Detailed Project Work Schedule Now that the plan has been developed in step 1 and the team selected, you need to develop a very detailed project work schedule. You must list all of the key deadlines, due dates and milestones that must be achieved. Remember, you cannot manage what you don t plan for. Make sure that the internal deadlines you set are realistic and always build in extra time for yourself. Make sure you and your team are aware of all external due dates. You will continually review the work schedule to make sure you are on the right track. If not, you will need to make corrective course changes just like a football coach at halftime. Don t be afraid to make adjustments to the schedule and make sure you communicate such changes to your team. Develop Training and Orientation Materials Very often with projects, there are going to be startup issues and time needed to get the team up to speed. In order to jump-start the project and reduce the ramp-up time needed, you must prepare at the outset all necessary training and orientation materials. These materials are important as you kick-off the project on day one. During the project orientation, you will want to allocate as much time as necessary to cover training and orientation materials. You want to make sure that everyone is on the same page and singing from the same music sheet right out of the project starting gate. Throughout the course of the project, you will want to keep the training and orientation materials updated. You will find this to be especially useful if you have to add new team members to the project at a later date. Finally, always keep asking the question: What are we missing? This question should be on your mind throughout the life cycle of the project. And always keep in mind that a resource is something that can be used for support or help. So never shy away from asking for help or seeking the resources you need to be successful. Project Management Step 3 - Manage and Utilize Technology Tools and Applications Step 3 is another important one since you will have to manage and utilize technology tools and applications necessary for project success. I have often said that people are the number one wildcards on projects. Well, technology in my view is a close second. Technology has been a key driver that has forever changed the legal industry. Technology has changed the way we manage, store, utilize, review, search, retrieve, and report on information and data for business and decision-making purposes. As project manager, you need to map out the project technology environment and landscape. This does not require you to be a technology expert but you need to have enough knowledge to ask the right questions. Remember, you cannot manage what you don t plan for. In addition, I am using technology in a broad sense to cover software, hardware, databases and the network. The technology requirements will depend upon the size, scope, location and duration of any given project. As a starting point, the checklist for step 3 covers the following technology related action items. Whether all of these checklist items must be addressed will depend on the project itself. Project Management Tracking Tools It is vital to track the progress of action items, due dates, deadlines and milestones. In addition, you have to track who is responsible on your team for getting things completed on time. Therefore, you will want to utilize a project management tracking tool. Very often, you will simply use Excel to track your project deliverables. In addition, you can utilize such tools as Microsoft Project or QuickBase. A major consideration for using such tools is to allow your client access to track the status of activities and communicate changes. In addition, a project portal is not only a single location for information but may include links to key documents, processes, schedules and reports. 6 Copyright 2012 etera Consulting

7 The Litigation Toolbox When it comes to electronic discovery and litigation driven projects, you will have a number of tools that are available to you including forensic collection, Early Case Assessment, processing, hosting and review, production and presentation. Software Applications As project manager, you may need to utilize software tools to track people s time for billing purposes. In addition, you must determine other software requirements to make sure you have the right tools and versions available to you. Databases The key assessment question you must ask as project manager is where are the documents stored and located. You must understand which databases your organization or client utilizes that will be important for the specific project you are managing. Research Tools If the project team must engage in any sort of business or legal research, you must determine which research tools will be required and are readily available. Hardware Requirements This comes down to what computers, scanners and printers do you need for your team members to perform their roles and responsibilities on the project. The Network This boils down to Internet connectivity and bandwidth. This is especially critical if are you managing an electronic document review project. In addition, you also need to take whatever precautions are needed to protect the information and data. IT Department and Help Desk As project manager, you will want to engage in getting the assistance of your IT department as soon as possible. You will want to have a go-to IT contact to help you assess and manage the project technology landscape. In addition, you will want to communicate to your team members the help desk contact information and work hours. The IT department and help desk will be very valuable project resources for you. Outside Vendors Very often, you will be working with outside vendors for a wide range of services and products including forensic collection, electronic discovery, staffing and trial consultants. Hopefully, you have a go-to trusted advisor in your arsenal of contacts. When working with outside vendors, make sure you completely understand what services and products (solutions) you are getting. In addition, you must make sure to communicate with vendors what your expectations and requirements are for project success. Always keep in mind that every project is different. Every project will have a unique set of problems, issues and needs and will require a different set of tools. Unfortunately, one size does not fit all. Each project must have its own blueprint for success. You must assess and utilize the proper tools based on your goals and objectives. There is no such thing as an easy button for managing projects which is why project management skills are vital in today s legal industry. Project Management Step 4 - Manage People and Group Dynamics Let me state that managing people and group dynamics is critical for one simple reason: people are the wildcard on projects. How you manage and integrate people into a group environment that crosses different disciplines and stakeholders is important to your success as a project manager. Yes, technology gets a great deal of attention. But do not ignore the human side of project management the people involved. Let me offer up some useful tips for managing people and project teams especially when overseeing a document review project. The Rule of C The Rule of C is simply ongoing communication and coordination eliminates chaos and confusion. As project manager, one of your key responsibilities is ongoing communication with your team and stakeholders. Imagine what the results would be if an air traffic controller did not routinely communicate with pilots. Well, chaos and confusion would result. So the bottom-line is this: communicate, communicate and communicate. Copyright 2012 etera Consulting 7

8 What Needs to be Communicated As project manager, it is your job to communicate to your team the following information to ensure that everyone is on the same page and singing from the same music sheet. Remember that communication is ongoing. Clearly define the roles and responsibilities of team members including vendors and consultants. Everyone on your team has an important role to play. Clearly communicate what your expectations are as project manager. Also communicate the expectations of your client and other important key stakeholders. Cleary communicate internal and external deadlines and due dates. Always add in extra time because things do go wrong. Also define what you consider to be key success factors. Clearly communicate project changes and how to escalate problems and issues. The proper chain of command must be communicated to every team member. Continually stress the importance of protecting information and data. Communication Tools As project manager, you have several communication tools available to you including s, face-to-face meetings, conference and phone calls, training and orientation, white boards, organization charts, instant messaging, fact sheets, cheat sheets, portals, spreadsheets and reports. As project manager, you are accountable for communication. Make sure you develop and implement a plan to communicate. Soft Skills Soft skills are an important consideration when selecting project team members. Soft skills include communication, listening, conflict resolution, creative problem solving, strategic thinking, team building and influencing skills. And yes, do not forget people skills. I am not suggesting that you do not consider someone who is competent and will add value on your project if their soft skills are horrible. All I am suggesting is that soft skills should be part of your selection criteria. Little Things Go a Long Way It s the little things that go a long way with people. As project manager, ask yourself how you want to be treated. I am guessing you want to be treated fairly and with respect. I am guessing you want to be appreciated and feel like you are contributing to the team. So appreciate your team members and treat them fairly and with respect. Go out of your way to touch base to see how everyone is doing. You do not have to become their best friends or drinking buddies but you do have to acknowledge their contributions and work efforts. And speaking of those little things, do not forget to use the two key words available to you: Thank You. Make sure to say thank you to your team members throughout project life cycle. Project Management Step 5 - Deploy Tactics for Project Success Since I am a big believer in lessons learned, let me provide some of the key tactics that have worked well for me in managing legal projects over the past several years. These lessons learned are key components of step 5. Address Housekeeping Matters During project orientation, make sure to cover work hours, breaks and meals, overtime policy, timekeeping requirements and other administrative matters. Every little project detail must be covered. It is the little things that will hurt you every time. Integrate and Introduce the Entire Team The integration of team members is a major challenge at the beginning of any new project. Therefore, make sure to have a project kick-off meeting. Invest the time to make sure everyone is introduced and utilize ice breakers. Develop a project name or project slogan so that everyone has something to rally around. Develop and Update Project Fact Sheets and Cheat Sheets Fact sheets and cheat sheets are important communication tools. Fact sheets are utilized to communicate important project details and contact information. Cheat 8 Copyright 2012 etera Consulting

9 sheets are utilized to communicate important project rules, guidelines and instructions for handling operational and process matters. Make sure to develop these communication tools at the start of a project and keep them updated throughout the duration of the project. Develop Procedures for Handling and Escalating Issues and Questions During the duration of a project, team members will have issues and questions that come up. Make sure you put in a place a process so members of your team can get their issues resolved and questions answered in a timely manner. This will improve the efficiency of the project and reduce down time as a result of team members waiting for the answers they need before continuing their work. Develop Quality Control Processes and Procedures To ensure the desired project outcome, make sure to develop quality control processes and procedures in order to monitor the quality of work being produced by your team members. This will ensure that the work is getting done as required and expected. This will also allow you to correct any work product that is not being completed correctly. Get Everyone on the Same Page out of the Project Starting Gate At the outset of every project, you must make sure that all team members are on the same page and singing from the same music sheet. That is, every team member must understand their roles and responsibilities, expectations, due dates, deadlines and desired project outcome. It is important that everyone is working to accomplish the same end result. Don t Freak Out until you have the Facts Before you react to any news, make sure you have the facts. Too often, project managers will blow up when they hear bad news without understanding the issues or reasons. So don t freak out until you have the facts. Make sure you have all the information needed before reacting and making any decision regarding the good, the bad, and the ugly. Project Management Step 6 - Conduct a Post Project Analysis The centerpiece of step 6 (the final step) is to conduct a post project analysis of the lessons learned. At the conclusion of each major project, make sure you take time to analyze what went right, what went wrong, and what would you do differently next time. You can then utilize this post project analysis to improve your internal project management process and document best practices. There are two ways to help you complete step 6. First, assess how people, process and technology were managed on the project. Second, review the project challenges, solutions and end results. Conclusion Let me leave you with a few final thoughts. The legal industry is driven by projects of all shapes and sizes. Every project is different. Every project is unique. Every project needs a plan to ensure the desired outcome. Therefore, if you want to ensure the success of your legal industry career, you must develop the necessary skills and abilities to be an effective legal project manager. Make Necessary Corrective Course Changes Throughout the project life cycle, you are going to have to make corrective course changes to ensure project success. Just like a head coach making adjustments at halftime, you as project manager will have to make adjustments whenever necessary. Therefore, you must keep your pulse on every project detail. You must make sure that issues are being addressed and deadlines are being met. In addition, corrective course changes could come in the form of replacing some of your team members. Making project personnel decisions is a key function of the project manager. Copyright 2012 etera Consulting 9

10 About the Author Joe Kanka serves as Vice President of Corporate Development for etera Consulting where he is responsible for human resources, training and development, contract staffing, knowledge management, and resource planning. Joe has more than 30 years of management experience, including 20 years managing Fortune 500 corporate legal departments, document review projects, litigation support centers, discovery sites, evidence libraries, war rooms, software development projects, mergers and acquisitions, and staffing companies. Throughout his career, Joe has held management positions at Beacon Hill, De Novo Legal, Steptoe & Johnson, Startec Global Communications, Bell Atlantic and AT&T. While directing operations for Beacon Hill and De Novo Legal, Joe specialized in the staffing of project managers, contract attorneys and paralegals for document review projects across various practice areas. At Steptoe & Johnson, Joe was instrumental in the development and management of the firm s litigation support center. At Startec Global Communications, Joe managed the company s global mergers and acquisitions including due diligence and business integration. During his long tenure with AT&T and Bell Atlantic, Joe established and managed antitrust litigation support operations throughout the U.S. including paralegal staffing, training and supervision. About etera Consulting etera Consulting specializes in helping Am Law 100 and Fortune 1000 clients overcome the challenges and costs of managing large volumes of data and electronic discovery. As a technology independent consultancy, etera offers three key services encompassing Early Information Assessment, Intell1gent One and Opt1mum One. Our solutions help clients to proactively identify and interpret key data early in the life cycle allowing for significant data reduction, enhanced decision-making abilities and lower risk resulting in significant downstream savings on processing and document review costs. etera provides clients with the management expertise, technology resources and data analytical tools needed to defend against litigation, government investigations and regulatory oversight. Headquartered in Washington, DC, etera Consulting has served the legal industry since etera Consulting was named to The Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing private U.S. companies in 2010 and was a 2011 finalist for the prestigious Helios HR Apollo Awards. Joe is the author of Emerging Professionals, published by Author House in He can be reached at eteraconsulting.com. 10 Copyright 2012 etera Consulting

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