Project Manager

7 Tips to Avoid Failure as an International Project Coordinator / Dispatcher


7 Tips to Avoid Failure as an International Project Manager (Coordinator or Dispatcher)

The 7 tips I share below are based on my own professional experience, I hope you find them useful. 

As an international project coordinator, I have been managing technicians on site for many years. They have performed micro projects, on-site network equipment installations (e.g., switches, routers, cabling, racks, firewalls, Wi-Fi), as well as surveillance camera systems for retail stores and network troubleshooting. I currently advise and supervise project managers as well.

Why 7 tips?

I picked 7 because I feel “seven” is an interesting number. Seven days a week, seven seas, seven continents. 7 was considered a God number in ancient Egypt. 7 also sounds official to me, even smart and  sophisticated  like the cool “007.”

 Now, back to project management.

As a Project Coordinator it is paramount to be knowledgeable and decisive about your project (especially when managing technicians on customer’s sites).

Let’s take a look at these seven points one by one:

1. Master the scope of your project

You have to know all the important requirements, starting from the “scope of work”, (including tasks, deliverables, desired outcome, and who the stakeholders are) these are “key”  when starting to plan your project. You have to clearly communicate all aspects of the project to the technicians and other parties involved, including the customer.

Make sure to have a clear idea of -what is expected from you and from your team- before you start.

Talk to your colleagues that have experience managing similar projects, finding a project template may help as well.

If you are not sure about the exact meaning of these terms (outcome, deliverables, scope), I strongly recommend you learn these “key project management concepts” ASAP.

Network technician working in a datacenter or server room
Network technician working in a datacenter or server room

You can provide guidance to your teams and succeed with your project only when you possess the right understanding and vision of your project from the starting blocks.

2. Evaluate Risk

– Ask yourself… What can go wrong?  

It is a good strategy to evaluate risks to avoid the possibility of things going wrong.

  1. Come up with a contingency plan for risks always have a “plan B”

For those using Prince2 there may be a learn from experience” Principle’s log

For those using PMP/PMI, the key phrase to check for is “Lessons learned” while the names are different the principles are the same, based on past experiences of what when wrong in previous projects and how to prepare for them.

When installing IPTV solutions for hotels (or replacing network equipment in hospitals, or clinics), a recurrent risk in France was the delivery time of the equipment, (often delayed).

2. Concerning risks -you do not know- or those that you cannot plan for, it is good practice to allocate extra resources (people) and budget. Keep your eyes focused  on your team who may be able to resolve issues directly and quickly on the spot.

I’ve mentioned PMP and Prince2, now Agile, (we can’t do without it nowadays) and the best thing IMHO is to combine your PM knowledge and to apply it I real life, that’s the way you grow, The ‘Agile way’ to deal with risk is done more by practices then envisioning. Many Agile practices look to identify and mitigate risk throughout the project, Agile is a way of thinking.

Unfortunately we can’t cover much about risk here, there are entire chapters about that. But, I assure you that if you follow these 5 points below, they will definitely help you avoid unpleasant situations.

3. Communicate with all parties before & during the job 

Successful communication will pave the way for a “flawless” intervention. You must properly communicate and clearly provide the required information and expectations to all parties involved including, team members- third party providers (e.g. Telecom company), about any incoming dispatch, this will ensure that the onsite technician gets the required support needed to accomplish his job and help to identify any possible hurdles in advance. It is also good to double check on availability and send periodic reminders before the job starts and during the intervention ensuring everyone involved in the process is kept up to date. It is important to be aware of the different time zones when setting up conferences. ….

”Communication is an ongoing process which can takes over 70% of the project coordinator’s time”

 4. Customer & stakeholder involvement

The project manager (or project coordinator/dispatcher) has to find a way to obtain the engagement from the customer and stakeholders (not all stakeholders are required to be engaged, some just need to be informed) and clearly communicate to them -what is expected from them to ensure an optimal and successful project.

Often the PM and technician have all information related to the jo, however, they do not communicate accordingly with the customer and stakeholders… “a potential recipe for disaster!”

Two typical scenarios:

A. The customer (or a stakeholder) is not aware that “he has to give access” to the technician to the IT Room or to a particular rack in a data center, this results in the technician losing precious time until access is granted.

B. The customer is not aware of the exact arrival time of the technician. This is potentially damaging for everyone involved as small jobs depend on a limited budget, time wasted is potentially billable. To avoid this situation, communicate with your customer the technician’s expected time of arrival ETA and what is required of him/her for the project or intervention to be successful and minimize impact on time/budget. Time is money!

5. Ask help when needed, don’t panic!

If a problem arises make sure you seek help from another peer or from your manager. It is always important to remain calm when dealing with issues involving customers, partners and technicians. You will need to gain as much information as possible to provide a clear picture and discuss it within your team. In most cases a solution is found within your team (be Agile!) without the need for escalation or unnecessarily getting the customer involved (PMP).

Project manager overwhelmed
Project manager overwhelmed


6. Document!

Everything must be in writing! Use an intervention form (Work Order) that contains all required information for the technician performing the work. The form should contain: Date & time, address, tasks, deliverables, tools required for the job, software required, remote contacts, local contact who can authorize the technician to leave the site after the job has been completed and verified and provide a place for the customer to sign… “extremely important!”.

It is essential that your company provide you with project management software tools that allow you to become efficient and to keep all information in one place, that will help you to optimize your time and effort keeping you project on track. Tools such as Work Order and templates together with your PM tool, are used for planning, managing time, resources and people, controlling costs and monitoring project progress.

I have included a link to a document for that purpose (WO). Feel free to use it in order to manage technicians going on site. I hope you find it useful!. You can download it here.

7. Submit a good report

Make sure you complete a detailed report and send it to the customer after the visit including a summary of the visit, the actions performed, deliverables, and the resolution.

This report ensures that you have completed your intervention in a professional manner.

You can now go ahead and close the ticket, go home and take a break. Good job!

Strong arm good work
Strong arm good work

IT Concierge provides IT Services for companies all over France : IT Network, System integration, network configuration, network site survey, Wireless site surveys project planning and deployments.

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