As project managers we become obsessed by processes. Every piece of work touched by one of your team members should have a robust process that ensures projects come in on time and on budget. We become focussed on reducing the risk for both our clients and our ourselves. We get bogged down in Gantt charts, figures and sign-offs.
However, if there is one thing I have learnt working as a project manager in the digital sector is that communication is key to the success of every project. Project management is very much about building strong relationships with all of your clients on honesty, innovation and ability. The digital sector is always changing and evolving, and it is really important that as we grow and change as a business that we take all of our clients on that journey with us.
Communication with your client is one part of it, but communication with your team is just as important. The team I work with every day is the most important factor in the success of our projects. It is ultimately my job to transfer a project brief from our client’s thoughts, to a specification and to the desk of each team member. If the line of communication breaks at any point the success of the project is at risk, which is exactly what we are working to avoid.
So, how do you avoid a breakdown in communication?
This is a lesson I unfortunately had to learn the hard way. As a young project manager, it took me some time to accept things can go wrong, regardless of how much you try to safe guard projects, mistakes can happen, and unavoidable issues arise. However, one thing that I learnt very quickly was that if your open, honest and transparent with your clients and team members alike you can change the end result. This is a time when communication and togetherness become vital. At the start of any project (big or small) put in place a plan for how the lines of communication will work. At a top level, these are the people you need to think about:
- Project managers > client
- Client > project manager
- Project manager > team members
- Team members > project manager
If everyone understands at the start of any project exactly how and when they should communicate with each other it is less likely to breakdown. It is up to you as a project manager to manage the expectation of others. Use these lines of communication to better the project outcome. Digital projects pivot all the time and it is important to be flexible with dates and project plans to allow projects to flourish and grow. Ultimately, you need to build relationships with the people you work with on a day-to-day basis whether internal staff, clients or strategic partners.
Project kick off
It’s project kick off and you need to gather as much information as you can. This information needs to be gathered in the most quick and effective way as time is precious for all involved. This information will form the basis of a project specification and finally, this will be the document all stakeholders use to gauge the success of the project. Therefore, I have a set of pre-defined questions that I will ask all new clients when starting any new digital project. These have been finally tuned over a number of years to ensure the client feels like we have a good understanding of their project, their business and what their end goal is. See below some of these questions:
- What do you need from us as your digital partner?
- Are we required on a consultancy basis? To look at existing systems in your business or to help you gather requirements for new digital projects?
- Do you need us to be your technology partner? Would you like our team and their skills set to be integrated into your business? All of us working together to achieve a common goal.
- Or do you need someone to white label a project on your behalf? We can enhance your offering, while you’re still the point of contact with your client.
- Can you tell us about your business, the new project you are about to embark on and how this is relevant to the business as it currently sits?
- Who are you?
- What is your ethos?
- What services do you provide?
- How has your business evolved over time?
- What is the new project about?
- What problems do you currently have and how will this solution help to improve that?
- What functionality would you like to see?
- What do you NOT want to see?
- What does success look like for you?
- Can we list all KPI’s for the new digital project?
- How/when will these be measured?
- Do you have a deadline in mind?
- When would you like to launch your new solution?
- Do we think this is achievable?
- Who is the point of contact?
- Can we exchange details of all points of contact in both businesses?
- What is the preferred method of communication?
When your next new project arises, ask your client these questions. Add the answers to your specification and everyone will understand what they are working towards. Open those lines of communication at the very beginning and ensure to manage the expectations of all stakeholders. You can never communicate with anyone too often. Stay in touch and the project will run smoothly.
As a project manager, this is my favourite part of the job. I get an insight into many different businesses, how they work and what drives their success. Getting under the skin of a business is what I’m passionate about, and how we can make a difference with the solution we provide. I want to provide our clients with a bespoke solution, tailored to their needs and that has tangible results.
Think we can work together? Why not give us a call on 028 9252 8155.