Top Qualities of a Great Client-Side Project Lead

project lead_MediumThe foundation of a successful Salesforce implementation project is a great project team, and key to that project team is a great client-side project lead. That’s not us, and it’s not necessarily the client’s internal Salesforce administrator, either! (Though it can be the same person. We’ve covered in depth before why you definitely need an admin, and others have well covered the qualities that make a great admin.)

The project lead is the team lead on the client side for the duration of the project. They know the business processes of their organization inside and out, or if they don’t, they know whom to ask. They are heavily involved in gathering and writing user stories, testing new features, and working with the development team to iterate on the system.

In our experience, exceptional project leads share a few key personal qualities. Here are our top ten attributes of a great project lead.

  • Willing to make decisions. Resources are finite, but ideas are not. It often falls to the project lead to make (sometimes tough) decisions about how best to focus time and resources. Sometimes this even means knowing when to escalate a decision to the executive sponsor.
  • Enthusiastic and curious about the project. This person should be excited about the potential for a new CRM system to empower their organization and keen to learn more. An infectious, positive attitude on the part of the project lead can go a long way toward organizational buy-in and success.
  • Honest about their limitations. An outstanding project lead truly believes that the only silly question is the one that’s never asked. They ask for clarification when needed, without hesitation. They’re also willing to say, “I don’t know,” and they quickly follow it up with, “but I’ll find out!”
  • Empowered to prioritize. This is often more about the organization than the individual in the project lead role, but it’s still worth naming. The height of an implementation project can take upwards of 10-20 hours of a project lead’s time each week. It’s important that the project lead is willing and able to prioritize the project, delaying or delegating other work in the meantime.
  • A clear and active communicator. Project-related messages never go unanswered, and they understand that sometimes it’s better to just pick up the phone. (And follow up the call with a written note documenting what you discussed, of course.)
  • Tenacious and resilient. When the going gets tough, the tough…stick with it and bounce back with clearer user stories and better features. A great project lead can motivate the team through a rough patch, rally the right internal players, and help everyone come out on the other side stronger together.
  • Focused on the vision. A great project lead doesn’t get bogged down in the mire of requirements; they can comfortably keep the big picture in mind at all times and filter all the big decisions through the lens of the project vision and goals.
  • Willing to get their hands dirty. The project lead often takes the lead on feature testing. They can’t be afraid to get down and dirty with barely-finished features, find and report bugs, and as we say, see the sausage as it’s made.
  • Organized. We have a Project Manager on the Bigger Boat side of the project team, but the client project lead is ultimately responsible for keeping all client team members organized and accountable for their tasks.
  • Able to maintain a sense of humor. Isn’t it always better to work with teammates who have a sense of humor? We think so.