Managing internal projects

As a project manager, being assigned an internal project can be a breath of fresh air, albeit one with caveats. Perhaps you’re overseeing work on an internal productivity tool, or migrating a business process from a legacy system to a new one. Regardless of the circumstances, when your colleague suddenly becomes your client, there are steps you need to take to ensure the project is a success.

Stick to what works

Just as with external clients, working with an internal stakeholder doesn’t mean you can take shortcuts to your project management process. Rather, you need to double-down on the workflows you know work well and set you up for success. Internal projects can be labeled with needing less oversight, and that is false. Do what you always do with projects:

  1. Uncover the project’s scope and goals, and make sure everyone is on the same page.
  2. Document everything.
  3. Keep communication out of inboxes and leverage the PM tool(s) you use for client work.
  4. Update on progress as you go.
  5. Seek acceptance of work once it is completed.

Treat yo’self

However, just because you are being the same PM as you always are doesn’t mean you have to maintain the professional distance you would with an outside client. Your internal stakeholders are also your colleagues, possibly your friends, so enjoy the fact that you can be a little less formal in your communication style. Feel free to lift the veil of PM a little and let your coworker inside more than you would normally with a client. Joke around, use internal slang / industry jargon with wild abandon, and generally have fun showing how awesome you are at managing projects. If this goes well, it can carry as much “performance review” weight as sterling client feedback.

Don’t let familiarity lead to failure

All that said, don’t use the fact that this is an internal project to shirk your duties. It may stretch you thin, but internal projects require as much dedication as external ones. This isn’t an either/or situation; you’re going to have multiple, competing deadlines and deadlines must be met.

An organization is a living thing and it’s great to reinvest your efforts to make it healthier. Keep your promises, set quantifiable goals against which you can measure progress, and knock that internal project out of the park.

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