To understand and appreciate the demands of a project manager and their project team in achieving project goals, the project client or representative of the parent company must know more about what the project team does.
Educate the Client from the Beginning
As stated above, it’s quite common for the client to not fully grasp the project management experience and the total demand on both the project manager and the project team. However, experienced project managers will understand the various phases of the project and the requirements of each phase.
Less educated clients or representatives may become discouraged or frustrated with their lack of knowledge, specifically when a project manager takes a different approach that they do not understand.
For example, the early stages of a project typically include brainstorming and encourages creativity to accomplish the project goals. One the team has developed a firm project plan, many action steps begin and the project leadership is focused on reaching the project goals. The meetings of the project team naturally will change as the timeline of the project progresses.
While this may make perfect sense to the project manager and the team, the client may not follow along as easily and may lose sight of the path the team has set. This is why it is essential for the project manager to communicate with the client as often as needed, and explain the general plan up front so everyone is prepared for what is to come.
For a complex project, details are not as important to the client, but rather the timeline and bigger picture is what is typically be expressed. This can help alleviate any uncertainty the client may have, as well as any unintended pressure on the project manager and project team that may have stemmed from an uneducated client.
Include the Client on Certain Project Teams
The client of the project is the face for their organization; through the project charter and working with the project manager to define the project scope. This person is also responsible for expressing the umbrella needs of the organization, and potentially the purpose/idea behind the project (if needed).
They are also involved in an oversight role, which is usually demonstrated through project reviews and reports that come from the project team. These reviews often vary depending on the project complexity. For example, a less complex project may just demand a one-hour meeting and a one-page summary on the progress of the project. On the other hand, a complex project may demand the client dedicate an entire day to project reviews and a lengthy document (100+ pages) may be expected.
Additionally, many clients will also prefer to be involved in the project success however possible. This can be a tricky position for a project manager, as they have to decide where the client may be most effective in the project.
The benefit to client involvement is an additional level of commitment and the personal investment of the client themselves. This also gives the project team more insight into the client’s problems, project problems and the thought process of the client directly from the source.
An underrated advantage of having the client included on the project is the knowledge they can bring that the project team does not have. By including a them where their unique knowledge can aid the team, the group can add value and contribute to project success. For example, they may be more knowledgeable in industry information that can lead to reduced action step times, and shorten the project timeline. This makes the project team more diverse and fills an intellectual hole that existed in the team.
With any project, the project manager, project team and client all have the same end goal in mind: success. While many clients may opt to take a backseat role, some will prefer to be engaged and participate in the project where they can. This should be taken advantage of by the project team, and find where they would be most valuable to the project.
Including the client will increase their personal satisfaction with the project, as well as add a layer of unique skills and knowledge to the project team. This is a win-win situation for all involved parties, and often can lead to boosted efficiency of the project.