An important mixture of patience and understanding should grip every project manager as they try to place themselves in the shoes of their clients. For the success of the project, this component is invaluable, especially when trying to deliver on time and on budget. This would not only be within project manager’s capacity, but also for the client’s interest. In fact, all new clients experience a significant knowledge gap as they begin to understand your processes and what they should expect from your business. For many clients, as the project begins to unfold they learn what they should expect from you, and ultimately, the more they know, the more they expect. This presents an interesting balancing act for the project manager; they must deliver a high-quality project while maintaining the rising expectation of their clients. In order to understand what can go disastrously wrong with your projects, as client expectations increase, here are two factors that can significantly influence their success.
One of the most common mistakes a growing professional services business makes is failing to effectively communicate with clients. As this study commissioned by Accelo suggested, at the root of the successful project management is effective communication. But, this is often easier said than done. If you fail to effectively communicate, the client may not see the value in using your business, choose not to continue the relationship, or not send additional work your way. The time you invest in clear communication will result in deepening understanding of the project demands and will demonstrate your commitment to your client’s project. This is where clear and consistent communication can make or break the relationship with your client and will lay the groundwork for building a successful, long-term relationship.
Underestimating your quote
As expectations rise it doesn’t usually mean that the budget for the project also rises. The project would be well-placed for success, if you were either able to better manage their expectations or if you would be able to increase the budget as the expectations also increased. Keeping an accurate count of time and resources can ensure you deliver the project within the allocated budget.
As firms grow and take on more clients, an inaccurate picture of the company’s employee time and resources available can be catastrophic. Since payroll is the largest expense for professional service firms, they can’t afford to lose track of any employee time -- it would amount to driving their business blind. If firms continue to take on new clients with no clear understanding of how much time they truly have available, employees will end up overworked and projects will go well beyond deadlines and budgets. When projects go beyond scope due to untracked time, businesses essentially do extra work for free.
Despite the attempt to properly track time, project managers are often in the dark around budgets and time spent by team members on various tasks making it difficult to adjust the budget if the are unaware they need to do so. More than two-thirds of them manually pull reports from timesheet software and apply it to project budgets, meaning delays of a week to a month between work being done and project managers seeing the budget impact. Often, by the time a project manager can compare estimated budget to time spent on a project, the project is over, their team has already moved to the next job and any losses have to be absorbed. This is obviously a problem on a per-project basis, but it has potential to do greater damage to the firm as a whole in the long run. When budgets and projects remain separate, it’s impossible to determine whether projects are profitable and adjust the sales approach for the next contract.
In the end…
A good way to ensure your project is successful is by having a project management solutions that allows you to link your timesheets to the project budget, and gives you the ability to easily communicate with your team. This allows you to immediately see when a project is getting out of control and take the steps necessary to rein it in while also allowing you to inform your client of the status of the project. You can even take this one step further and set up alerts to let project managers know when they are nearing project milestones or even to forecast when they will go over budget. Another thing to consider, is to adopt a system that takes into account the way you naturally communicate with your client about the project, for most that’s via email. Having the ability to automatically capture and store every email makes communication easy. In fact, minimizing the potential threat of trying to exceed expectations means ensuring the success of your projects and business, and the best way to do that is with a smart project management tool.