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8 Tips For On-Site Project Managers


My friend’s 11 year old son has a Swiss Army Knife. He LOVES that thing.  It has something like 38 tools all in an extremely compact space of 1” x 3 ½” that fits neatly into his pocket. He takes it with him everywhere he goes (except school of course). Why? Because, you never know when you need a large blade, small blade, screw driver, wire stripper, tweezers, wood saw, bottle cap remover, or toothpick.

All of these things are included in this handy little utility knife. He’s the guy I would want by my side if we ended up lost in the woods somewhere and had to fend our way back to civilization! His Swiss Army Knife does it all. He’s totally self-contained and independent with this useful tool for survival in the woods.

How about you?  Are you self-contained and independent as a project manager? This is especially important if you are the type of project manager that works on-site at a client. You may have your own desk, cube, or office at the client’s site to help facilitate and expedite project work between your two companies. At the very least, you undoubtedly give presentations on-site from time to time at your clients. What are the project management tools that you will need for on-site survival as a project manager?

8 Project Management Tools you Shouldn’t Leave Home Without

  1. Your Own Internet Connection: The first of theit-connection project management tools that is vital for on-site survival is to have your own internet connection.  Internet connectivity problems are a hotbed of frustration and aggravation regardless of the size of the company.Smaller companies may have their wireless network set-up for you to access, but, since their IT person is out to lunch nobody can remember the password. You find yourself filling dead air with small talk until the IT person gets back to the office.Or, it may be a BIG company where you are presenting. They have the network locked down tighter than Fort Knox. All you do is just ‘think’ about accessing their network and you’ll have Big Company Security confiscating your laptop and escorting you out of the building.Neither situation is acceptable. Control your own Internet destiny by having some type of hotspot with you. The hotspot can be on your phone or a stand-alone device that will allow you to create your own network and eliminate the above aggravations.
  2. An Extra Network Cable: The second of the project management tools you need to bring with you is an extra network cable. Wait, doesn’t this fly in the face of Number 1 above? Yes and no. You may encounter problems with your own hotspot or the signal strength may not be very strong.When you run into this type of situation it’s always easier and faster to plug directly into the on-site network instead of connect wirelessly. You’ll be prepared to do this in the event your hotspot is not working.
  3. Your Own Power: No, we’re not talking about bringing a portable gas generator to crank up as one of your project management tools for on-site survival. We are talking about making sure you have enough juice to get you throughout whatever you need to do without having to plug in to an outlet.For example, you may need to get through a one hour presentation. Make sure you have enough battery life for a 2 hour presentation. Or, it may be that you need to be on-site all day. Make sure you have an extra fully charged battery tucked away somewhere so you can make it through the entire day without running out of battery life.You may wonder why you would need to be so mindful of bringing your own power when you can just plug in to an outlet. There’s no telling what can happen when you are in the Wild, Wild, West of your client’s office. They may lose electricity. You may be set up in a room where every outlet is taken by what appears to be mission critical computers that are monitoring one thing are another. Who knows? It’s just a much better feeling if you bring your own power as one of your project management tools.
  4. Bring Your Own Extension Cord: This project management tool is, umm…an ‘extension’ of Number 3 above. There may be an open outlet in the room to plug into. However, you need to sit at the head of the table to show the presentation and you’re too far away from the outlet. Your power cord is just one foot short from plugging into power. Bringing a thin, 3’ long extension cord will ensure this is not a problem.
  5. Bring a Backup Presentation for Your Online Demo: A part of most project management presentations is the ability to show a live online demonstration of whatever development is currently underway. A recurring nightmare for every project manager is that the demo is all fired up and ready to go, and then for some reason or another it doesn’t work! Anyone that has been doing live, online demos for any time now knows that this is an all too common occurrence.One of the essential project management tools you’ll need for on-site survival is a backup presentation of what you were going to show in a live environment. This backup presentation can be as simple as screen shots of the application that mirror the flow of the application. Another option is to include textual callouts and highlight particular areas of functionality so everyone can virtually experience what the online demo would have shown.
  6. Bring Backup Handouts of the Backup Presentation for Your Online Demo: We’re not kidding here. If you’ve worked in corporate environment for a decade or more, then you’ve seen it all. You’ve been through the network challenges that prevented you from showing your online demo. Then, you’ve been through the projector challenges that prevented you from showing your backup presentation of the online demo.There’s nothing worse than fumbling through a presentation and apologizing to everyone about what they are not seeing. Pack a hardcopy of the presentation that you were going to show on the big screen. You’ll be able to pass this around the table as a sure thing once all the electronics have failed you!
  7. An Extra Day’s Set of Clothes: You need for on-site survival is one extra day’s set of clothes. It’s OK to wear the same set of clothes if your flight has been cancelled and you are just hanging out at the hotel room. It’s not OK to wear the same set of clothes if your trip on-site at the client has been extended because they wanted to hear more or you need to stay extra to work through a thorny issue. Packing that one extra day’s worth of clothes will eliminate the stress of having to find somewhere close by that is open that carries something that you’ll like. Preempt this concern by planning on staying that extra day each time.
  8. A Toothpick: Last but not least, bring a toothpick. This is kind of tongue-in-cheek, but there is nothing worse than having to present in front of a group of people with sesame seeds from the bagel stuck between your teeth. Maybe my friend’s 11 year old son will let you borrow his Swiss Army Knife.

There you have it…the 8 project management tools that you need for on-site survival. Do everything you can to be as independent and self-sufficient as possible and you’ll find yourself navigating through your clients on-site environment with ease.

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