Anna Shaban about Building Effective Relationship with Clients at PMDay Lviv 2014

On the 22th of November a 2014 Autumn Project Management Day took place in Lviv. The main purpose of the Lviv PM Day was to make project management more professional and promote an outsourcing local IT-market. This event gathered about 180 project IT managers from all over Ukraine.

Anna Shaban, Project Manager at Stanfy, was among the featured speakers and shared her solid experience in working with different clients, while searching a sustainable balance between her team motivations and client’s needs. How it was and what we talked about we will tell you below.

Project Length

So, first of all, let’s discuss the issue of project length and if it affects the team. What is an ideal project length: Is it 1 or 3 months, or it maybe 1 year? The real answer is that there is no actually any ideal time because the main factor that really affects the work with the client is team mood, the feelings you experience while working on a project. And of the most important motivations is that of your client’s feedback you finally obtain.

Demo with client?

Do you conduct a demo for client once a sprint? Yes, we do because, on the one hand, it helps us understand the client’s mood, and specifically if we can meet his/her a expectations; on the other, and it helps client stay in the stream, control the development process and amend it if needed.

What do we expect from the demo? In an ideal world — sharing ideas and best practices in a way of a productive conversation, (but!) in real life sometimes it happens that it takes some time to make both sides happy with the process. On some occasions, the result of the demo is securing an understanding that this sprint should be reworked. After such demos the team can feel a little bit upset, and the collective motivation can start falling. But every week after the demo we make a retro with the team for getting a better understanding of the process moment that we should improve, along with the mood, reasons for it, which at the end of the day helps us decide what is the best way to make the two parties happier.

What to do?

What to do if you and your client feel unhappy with the way you work and communicate between each other, even you’ve done everything right according to his/her requirements?

Maybe your client understands the approach to your work, but throws changes at every turn. Maybe he/she is one of those who constantly waits for the result to be delivered yesterday, regardless of the fact that yesterday was Sunday. Or maybe the customer has the chief of a higher level co-worker behind his or her back, making the guy busy with work, so the client doesn’t have enough time for you.

One common part in all these cases is that the client is also an indispensable part of the project. So if something isn’t working, don’t be afraid to involve him/her into the process deeper and to clarify why it is so important to do so to ensure the expected result.

Educate your client

Depending on the environmental conditions, you can use basic two options — a videoconference with the client without the whole team or you can write a letter. In first case, for both (you and client) it is much harder to hide the real emotions and it is very important to understand how the client responds to you, your suggestions and inquiries on the situation with the team. If it  is not possible, you can try to clarify the situation by sending a letter. The main goal is to build a productive partner relationship.

Why should you try to do at least anything?

In fact you can work in peace and do not put extra efforts. Well, you have almost demotivated your team and are reluctant to attend meetings with the client. What kind of results will you get in 2 months of such a mood in the team? It is doubtful that such a state have a positive impact on the result and on the interactions with the client as a whole.

The project you are working on should not be ashamed to put in your or your company’s portfolio. The result of your work should be not only pleasing the client, but you as well, and users as a result (after all, they exist even in closed systems).

What we are trying to say — don’t be afraid to educate your customers, to involve him or her deeper in the process of project creation. Or at least try to do so. Initiative is punishable, but still. The customer comes to you for the solution of the stated problem. He also approaches you for your expertise in a particular field in which the customer may not have sufficient knowledge in the first place. Sometimes the client can be tactfully hinted that he/she came to you to design a comfortable machine to sort the beans, not to dictate you with what hand what kind of beans in which basket should be put in. Share your experience, and client will be grateful for this.

And, one more thing, do not forget to listen to the customer. Every client has a lot to learn by looking at the creation of the project from his or her side. A successful project is more likely to appear where there is a harmonious sharing of ideas and knowledge.

December 9, 2014

Conferencesproject management