Think about it – there are hundreds and even thousands of people out there every year that thought everything was fine with their relationships, jobs or businesses, until one day they find everything’s going to pieces. It happens...we just need to be more aware...and more communicative, in order to avoid these types of situations. It's always better to address it properly and have a hard, painful look up-close before you find all that you’ve been working for has gone down the drain, right?
So, since communication is Job Number One for the project manager – at least in my opinion – I'd like to cover what I consider to be four key things that your project customer wants to hear from you regularly. Giving them this information or following these four processes and practices will help keep them happy and on your side of the fence...not pointing fingers at you for not knowing their needs and not delivering on their preferences.
Regular project status.
Your project customer wants to hear from you regularly on the overall project status. They want to feel at all times like you know where the project stands and where it's going. The best way to do that is to keep them apprised of the project status via weekly project status reports, a revised project schedule, and weekly project status calls or meetings.
For some clients the budget status is just as important as project status. They see you working, but they are also concerned that you might be blowing through their money quickly. You may be doing that – appropriately. But they need to know regularly where the budget stands and if you are ahead or behind on the planned budget for the project. And you need to know that regularly, too. So stay on top of it. A 10% budget overage caught early is way easier to fix than a 50% budget overrun caught late.
Is our end date still doable?
Can you still meet the planned rollout date? You can give a lot of project status updates, but if you aren't regularly confirming that final date with the client, then they will be getting nervous. Always address that with them. The earlier they know that there may be an issue with the rollout date, the more they can help you with that or accept that and fix whatever expectations they need to fix on their end. Try to never surprise your project client. They don't like surprises.
Update on any and all issues regularly.
Every project has ongoing issues. Make these issues part of the regular project status reporting and review meetings that you have with the project client. They know issues exist...their head isn't buried in the sand. Let them know how and by whom those issues are being handled and how they are affecting the project. They want to help...let them.
Summary / call for input
Keep communication flowing, project status meetings happening, and project status close at hand for your project client. Those are all key to ongoing project satisfaction with the delivery organization – your organization and team and your ability to deliver on the project. Part of that satisfaction is just perception – and staying on top of these will enhance that perception. Trust me.
What are your thoughts? From your experiences, what keeps your clients the happiest (besides early delivery)? What strategies do you employ to ensure that your client is engaged and comfortable with how the project is going and feels up to date at all times (or at least appropriately in the loop)?
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