Account Management at 18F
Account Managers (AMs) at 18F are the connective tissue across 18F projects that allow us to build long-term relationships with partners and consistently help 18F project teams deliver value.
Because of the number of projects they’re involved with, AMs serve as hubs of institutional knowledge for project teams.
Different roles at different times
The role of the account manager changes over the course of each project. For example, account managers are critical in the initial business development process (before an agreement even exists), then as a strategic advisor and resource while projects are underway.
As soon as the business development team identifies a viable lead, they invite an account manager to qualification calls. Account managers help vet the work and begin establishing a relationship with the potential partner, allowing for a single point of contact throughout the agreements process and beyond.
Once the subject matter experts (SMEs) and business development team agree that 18F can take on the project, the AM takes over the partner relationship and begins preparing the agreement. This means lots of conversations with the partner, in which the AM works to set the partner’s expectations and understand as much as possible about their organization before an 18F team begins work.
During discussion(s) with the partner, the AM will:
- Revisit the work initially discussed and gather additional detail
- Introduce the partner to the TTS agreements process, including timeline expectations, forms, signatures, and funding constraints
- Request background materials (including prior research, repos, org charts, or lists of stakeholders)
- Provide information about pre-agreement work (such as identifying users for research)
- Identify potential barriers to accessing partner systems and using collaborative tools
- Gather and synthesize information about measures that matter so the 18F team has more context about the partner environment (including the partner’s relationship with IT/security, procurement shop, any current vendors, our ability to access systems/data, and relevant oversight/governance bodies)
- Align on expectations for working with 18F (including reviewing roles, responsibilities, time expectations, and how we’re different from other vendors).
The AM then works with the partner to draft the statement of work (SOW). Once there’s agreement on the SOW, the AM submits the partner’s information to the TTS agreements team so they can prepare the IAA package and route it to the partner for signature.
To submit a project to the agreement process, the AM must include the SOW, cost estimator, and a complete partner prep survey in the IAA request form. Once an agreement has been submitted to the IAA process, the AM works with other SMEs to identify project staffing needs and submit a staffing issue to the Staffing Repo. Projects are not staffed until the agreement has been fully executed and it can take up to 8 weeks to staff a project after it’s been executed.
Once the agreement is executed and staffed, a Tock line is created (by the account manager reaching out to the tock team) and billable work can begin. The AM schedules and prepares an internal kickoff with the entire 18F project team, and introduces the partner to the 18F project lead. This marks the beginning of billable work on the project, and signals the moment that primary ownership of the project work is handed off to the staffed team.
Once projects are underway, account managers are advocates for the project, team, and partner. AMs are members of project teams, and attend project meetings (when possible) to provide input, address any red flags, and gain visibility into the project work. Because they have the longer-term context of the partner relationship and a high-level view across 18F projects, account managers can help support the partner and the team in service of the project goals. Their exposure to various projects across 18F (and TTS) past and present also gives them a unique perspective to resolving blockers. Account managers remain in contact with partner agencies throughout the engagement’s duration to monitor expectations, provide customer service, and gather feedback.
As part of a project team, the account manager is responsible for:
- Tracking the project’s budget and burn, and identifying patterns, risks, and opportunities
- Updating the project’s financial status in the Weekly Ship
- Modifying agreements when necessary
- Developing travel estimates and obtaining approvals
- Getting partners set up in Slack and other tools
- Making sure the 18F team has the tools, resources, and skills to deliver on the scope of work
Maintaining partner relationships
- Managing partner expectations and supporting the project lead in maintaining alignment between the project team and partner about goals and deliverables
- Identifying further work, including proposing, estimating, and scoping, then shepherding partners through the agreements process
- Working with the Chief of Projects to ensure value is being delivered to the partner and that project artifacts are in line with 18F standards
- Provide project health updates to 18F leadership, as well as sharing lessons and successes
- Tracking the overall project timeline and ensuring key milestones are being met
Troubleshooting challenges and escalation
- Resolving internal 18F team conflicts, in partnership with the project lead
- Resolving and escalating partner issues with the project lead
- Serving as meeting facilitator (or helping to identify an outside facilitator) for retrospectives or difficult conversations, if needed
How should you work with your Account Manager?
Most Account Managers are responsible for a number of projects in various stages—some in business development, some in the IAA process, some in-flight—so while they won’t be able to attend all project meetings, they’ll be in touch with project leads on a weekly basis, as well as in regular contact with your agency partner POC to see how the project is going from their perspective. Your AM will also check in occasionally with all project team members to ensure they understand the project from all perspectives.
The account manager is a member of your project team, so in general, invite them to all recurring project meetings (both internal and with the partner), including sprint planning, standups, demos, retros, and presentations. They can serve as a powerful resource, and visibility into the work helps them advocate for your project needs.
If you’re worried about your project, bring up any concerns or blockers with your AM. From questions about how to deliver value, scope creep, or workloads to concerns about the partner relationship or team dynamics, the AM has seen it before! For issues that are bigger than the team, AMs will help the project team determine whether and when to escalate by looping in other folks, such as the Chief of Projects, Portfolio Director, or Chief of Staff.