Each week, project management veteran Tom Mochal provides valuable advice about how to plan and manage projects. Tom first describes a common problem scenario, based on real-life situations. He then offers a solution, using practical project management practices and techniques.

The dilemma
When I met with Reyna for the third time, she was making good progress on the implementation of a customer relationship management (CRM) package at our company. However, she was receiving requests from the sales and marketing clients about “branding” the project. This was a new concept for her.

“This is my third major project for the company,” Reyna explained. “I’ve never been asked to ‘brand’ a project before. Our major clients are from the sales and marketing divisions, and they’re familiar with the concept. I think of a brand as something that is advertised on television. I don’t see how it applies to this project.”

“Branding may make sense for your project,” I said. “The CRM implementation will touch the entire sales and marketing organizations. When people hear your project name, you want them to think positively about the value it will add to their jobs.”

“I do want people to think positively about the project,” Reyna said, “but how do I ‘brand’ a project?”

Branding allows you to be creative
I explained to Reyna that she’d need to start a proactive marketing campaign to communicate positively about her project, which should be planned in advance with the sales and marketing clients.

“Branding is also easier if there is a visual tie-in,” I added. “Think about a flashy project name and a project logo. Think about T-shirts and project pins. Think creatively.

“Branding is a process of establishing an image and then associating a positive mental picture to it,” I continued. “You continue to reinforce the image and the positive feeling throughout the project. You will be surprised how well it can work.”

Mentor advice
Branding is all about establishing a positive image for your project. Think about the millions of dollars that Coca-Cola spends each year positioning soft-drink brands and reinforcing their positive image.

Most IT projects don’t need branding. Their scope is limited to a small set of people, and the impact of the project on the organization is modest. However, some projects will affect an entire organization or company and may take years to implement fully. These are the types of projects that need a positive image and associated good feelings. They are candidates for branding.

Reyna’s project is a good example of one in which branding makes sense, because it would likely be met with resistance throughout the sales and marketing divisions. It’s important that people start off with a positive perception of the changes and maintain that perspective throughout the project. Part of this may be a short, flashy project name or a positive-sounding acronym. For instance, if you were in the sales organization, would you rather hear about the “CRM Implementation Project” or “Project E-Force”? The branding may include a logo, which can be emblazoned on all communication. All the while, the image is tied to success and value.

Reyna can talk-up the success that other companies are experiencing with CRM, publicize success stories, and make sure the management team speaks often about the value of the project. All of these actions will help overcome the normal resistance that the project will meet in the business organization.

Project management veteran Tom Mochal is director of internal development at a software company in Atlanta. Most recently, he worked for the Coca-Cola Company, where he was responsible for deploying, training, and coaching the IS division on project management and life-cycle skills. He’s also worked for Eastman Kodak and Cap Gemini America and has developed a project management methodology called TenStep.

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