Without a doubt, one of the most important aspects of any project managers job is to keep clients informed about a project’s progress. Whether it’s programming questions, discoveries during testing, or issues encountered during field, it’s essential to keep clients in the loop so that they can make an informed decision. However, it’s equally important to understand when we cross the line from insightful questions to a perceived lack of preparation from our clients.
Every one of our clients is important and understanding that every project is significant goes a long way in building trust and confidence with them. Part of that trust and confidence comes from ensuring that clients are not needlessly stressing over project details that are outside their scope.
Following some guidelines for communication goes a long way and can set the project and client relationship up for success in the long run. Here are three key communication takeaways for ensuring a projects success:
Stick to a Schedule
At the outset of a project, come up with a schedule that works for both your client as well as your team. It’s a hard balance between quality and speed – do it right or do it fast? – delivering both is the new norm and it’s important to set everyone up for success by establishing timelines and expectations early in the process. Once the timeline has been established, work towards it by keep your team up to date and prompting clients for any materials needed.
As with many projects, there can be delays; be it on your end or the client’s. In any case, it is important to always include a buffer of 1-2 days. If you find yourself in a situation where that buffer has been used, inform your client and your team. Sometimes it’s possible to tell that there will be schedule changes once important deadlines have been missed. Determine next steps. When will outstanding deadlines be met? Will field time be reduced? Will the survey be shortened to reduce programming hours? Figuring out what needs to be modified will pave the way for a revised schedule. Communicate internally and let your client know the impacts of a schedule change.
Like we established, things change. What is important is determining a rough schedule that outlines the time it will take to complete each stage of a project and most importantly, leave some buffer in the schedule. Letting clients know how long it will take to review their files, programming, field work, and any data/coding will take. Then also go a step beyond. If it becomes apparent programming will take longer, let clients know. Maybe the work they have sent over requires custom scripting that will take time to program and test. It is equally possible that an alternative solution is available and will take less time to program. Present timelines on both and allow your client to have the final word.
About Gurpreet KaurGurpreet is a graduate of Humber College’s Research Analyst program. She’s been in market research for 2 years. In her current role as Project Manager at Logit she primarily oversees quantitative tracker and ad hoc web based studies with a focus on sports, financial institutions and travel.