5 ways project managers can balance customer success in project management

Balancing customer success in Project Management

Working with clients is not always easy. Especially in the IT industry, given its demanding skill sets, competitive price rates, and ambitious timeframes we are working with. As usual, clients expect to receive the highest value possible for what they pay. Project managers need to make sure that PMO processes and framework they work with, help them deliver projects with the best possible quality while maintaining the agreed plan and budget. Ultimately, client and project managers have the same goal - get a successful project as a result, which is delivered promptly and within the agreed budget. However, while both ends of the projects want to accomplish the same goal, certain challenges are rising, making it difficult to leave both parties satisfied.    

The role of the project manager is crucial here. While they work hard to meet the needs and demands of the clients to retain the existing clientele and attain the new ones, they find themselves in a tough situation to balance their decisions and actions in a way, that clients get the value they pay for, and the company receives the fair pay for the efforts it invests in the project.   

What are the most common challenges?

It all starts with expectations. Clients select partner companies carefully, based on a combination of factors that fit their business needs best. This can be price, technical solution, time of the delivery, recommendation or any other combination of the above. They have the highest expectations and want to get as much value, as possible. 

Before the development starts, both project managers and clients are discussing and evaluating the project to determine the scope. Based on it, project managers set up the budget, determine timeframe, the workforces needed to complete the project on time, and distribute the work. The role of the project manager is to deliver the project as agreed; however, some challenges turn it to a difficult task.  

Changing the scope of work 

One of the biggest challenges project managers face is the client changing the scope of the work. In the process of development, the client often requests changes that change the scope of the work too. While we are agile enough to welcome changes to the scope, this might or might not affect the timelines and budgets. Clients expect to receive the highest value for what they pay, but often they do not quite realize that changing the scope of the work highly affects the processes too. It requires certain changes to be made in the workforce, time of the project delivery and certainly, the budget. While many clients are open to changing the delivery time, they are not eager to adjust the budget, which creates further challenges and conflict of interests.  

Wrong expectations 

When clients approach a company for IT services, they have an idea of what the software should look like or work like. However, clients are from various industries and while they are experts in their field, they have less knowledge of the IT industry. Therefore, they request specific things but then expect them to work differently. It creates new requirements from the clients, to get the software they need. Project managers are ought to adapt to them, resulting in changes in the work scope. 

Redefining the project  

Sometimes clients do not fully realize what kind of software fits their business case the best. They request software, but once it is under development, they realize that it is not the best solution for them. Changes are not necessarily bad, on the contrary,  they are essential for better product development. Hence, it is important to welcome changes, but it is not without the cost.  Especially when clients are defining the project on the go, sometimes changing the software completely. While clients feel confident about these changes, they often ignore the effect these changes have on the project. Not realizing that defining the software on the go results in delays and extra costs. Thus, they still expect to get the project done in a timeframe and within a budget that was first agreed on, while they are going beyond the contract.  

Challenges of project managers in the IT industry  

Project managers sit right in the middle of the client and company. Whatever challenges they might face, project managers need to ensure that in the end, the client leaves satisfied, willing to return as a loyal customer in future. At the same time, they also need to ensure that the company interests are protected too, and the company’s time and efforts are recognized fairly.    

Project managers need to help the client succeed 

The main goal of the project manager is to deliver a successful project and create software that helps the client be successful in business. They need to adapt to the changes clients request, but at the same time, ensure that these changes are adequately compensated, not damaging the interests of the company. Project managers need to find the fine line that is lying between the success of the client and company interests.  

Bring additional value  

Today, in the IT industry competition is higher than ever. Companies cannot stand out without delivering the value clients are seeking, and more. Clients also expect additional value from their software development providers.  Meaning, that project managers need to go beyond the contract, while considering the added value against the available budget. 

Project managers need to adequately accommodate the changes clients request. At the same time, they need to make sure that the efforts of the company are fairly compensated. It is not an easy job, considering that clients are not welcoming changes in the budget. However, it is crucial for the company itself, as some changes might double the scope of the work, meaning that the team needs to invest more time and workforce.  

Stay flexible   

In the end, customer satisfaction is the most important part of every project. Does not matter what kind of changes the project requires, project managers need to adapt to them quickly. They should be ready to accommodate and even welcome the scope changes while carefully reviewing the costs. Agility and flexibility are the utmost qualities a project manager should show when leading a project 

How to mitigate these challenges   

As you can see, there are challenges from both clients and project managers side. Addressing these challenges and mitigating them from the very first steps of the project development is the key to the successful project. It is important to make adjustments along the way as needed before the project reaches its final stage. Our years of expertise in managing software development projects showed that there are solutions that work the best for mitigating the challenges and completing projects successfully for clients and the company.     

Create a good communication plan    

Communication is the key. It is essential to have a good communication plan or review board that removes the high-level decisions away from the team. It allows stakeholders to make important business decisions that are necessary for the success of the project. A good communication plan defines the need, purpose and methods of communication. It is important to include the methods that are preferred by the clients too. If the client is not reading the emails, the frequent email updates won't help. Implementing a good communication plan guarantees the involvement of both parties. This way, important changes and updates are followed up on time, ensuring the smooth development of the project. 

Maintain regular communication   

The good communication plan goes to waste if project managers do not follow it. While communication is crucial for a successful project, it is also very important for building a relationship with the clients. Encourages them to be involved in the project as much as possible and provides them with the needed information about the ongoing processes. This inspires trust and confidence in the company, that is very important for building long-term partnerships.  

Provide timely updates 

Based on the project scope the development might take several months. Project managers should ensure that the clients are aware of what’s going on with the project. Project managers should provide timely updates, the more of it, the better. It helps clients understand the process of software development better, see the challenges and observe how the company find solutions for them.  Timely updates help both the project manager and client resolve issues promptly and not hinder the project.    

Mentor and educate clients   

One of the main responsibilities of the project manager is to minimize uncertainties. The project manager needs to protect the client from unpleasant surprises as much as is reasonably possible. Good project managers know that the client has a huge role in it. This is why it is important to mentor and educate clients about software development processes.   

By introducing the clients to the common and good practices of software development, they understand how their decisions affect the project. They come to the realization that changing the requirements often will most certainly result in delays and increased costs, othat defining the project on the go would result in chaos. By educating the clients, project managers reduce the risk of the challenges described above as much as possible and provide additional value. 

Conduct client workshops   

Client workshops are another part of mentoring and educating clients. One of the best ways to show clients how the development process goes is to bring them next to developers. As mentioned above, clients come from various industries and very few of them have a technical background or an understanding of the software development processes. Good project managers take their time to accommodate every kind of client and to create a comfortable space for them for accurately defining the project. Setting up a meeting between clients and developers is the best solution.  

Clients meet the people who will be working on their project, which creates additional trust as the face to face communication is always the best. At the same time, bringing clients next to the developers help both of the parties understand the expectations, minimizing any further miscommunication. Client workshops also help identify the details of the project, so later the misalignment is reduced, and challenges are mitigated as much as possible.    

Final thoughts   

Working with clients in the IT industry can be difficult. They are coming from different industries and backgrounds, not fully realizing what kind of software fits their business interests best, or how the development industry works. This might raise challenges such as frequent changes of the scope, defining the needed software during the development etc. Which results in changes in the workforce, budget, and of course, timeframe of the project.   

Project managers need to mitigate these challenges before they even appear. To do so, project managers should set a good communication plan for both internal and external use, and keep the client involved in the process as much as possible, mentor clients and conduct workshops for them. This will not only make the project development smooth, but ensure that clients are getting the value for what they pay, and more. Addressing these challenges and mitigating them will also ensure that while the client is happy with the result and service, the interests of the company is protected too. this way, the project will be beneficial for both, client and company and will be the start of the fruitful, long-term partnership.    

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