The following post is an excerpt from our Guide to Project Planning. Download it now for more info on how to build a great project plan.
When you’re working on a project with a client or even a product owner, it’s critical to be 100% sure they understand all the details your team has discussed. Remember, your clients may not be familiar with your process or deliverables so this is your chance to enlighten them.
Be sure to set up a call or in-person meeting to review the project plan in detail. Having trouble getting time on your client's calendar? Learn how to engage clients in your plan so you can deliver what they want on time and budget.
Before diving into the nitty-gritty of your plan, share the project timeline with your client so they can see your team’s process at a high level. If you want to send the timeline to your client in advance, it’s easy to do in TeamGantt by sharing a view-only link of your gantt chart.
Chances are, they’ll be confused by what they’re looking at, so you’ll want to take the opportunity to review it line by-line. This may sound painful, but it’s an important step in ensuring you’re in agreement, not only on timing, but also on how you’ll deliver the final product. Use the initial review of your plan as your chance to educate your client and set clear expectations for the project.
We recommend following these simple steps when presenting your project plan to a client.
Explain your overall project management process and how you, as a team, arrived at the approach. Feel free to explain how it has worked on previous projects or why you’re trying something new. No matter what, stand behind the approach, and be confident about its potential for project success.
Review the deliverables and all the details that will help you, as a team, produce your project on time. It’s important to explain what work must be done to complete a deliverable and why it will take the time you’ve allotted. If you explain these details now, your clients won’t push for unrealistic deadlines. And if your plan shows tasks, your client will understand just how much work is being done.
While reviewing your plan, your client may have questions about what a deliverable is and what it does. This is great because it means they’re engaged in the process and look forward to seeing what the team will deliver!
If you can, share some similar documents or deliverables from other projects and explain what they’re intended to do (and not do) and how they relate to other project deliverables and decisions.
The more you can educate your clients early on, the easier it will be to win them over when presenting your work. After all, a client who’s invested in and truly understands your work is not just a client—they’re a partner.
In your plan, you’ve probably made some estimates based on the amount of time your clients will need to review your work as a team and provide feedback. If you had conversations with your clients early in the process, you know how much time they need. This is your chance to point back to that conversation so they know the timing for deliverable review processes is based on that discussion.
Of course, if that’s no longer the case, you’ll need to make adjustments. At this point, you want to be as realistic as possible about how the project will go. There’s nothing worse than changing the review process—or the people involved—midstream on a project. Explain this to your clients so they’ll think twice about timing and what’s realistic for them.
When clients see the time they need in relation to the time you’re taking, as well as the deadline, they’ll most likely be motivated to work hard to meet their dates and contribute to completing large project milestones on time.
If your client misses their deadline, what will that do to the project? Where can you be flexible, and what makes you nervous? Put it all on the table now, and document it in meeting notes so everyone is aware of the potential issues you’re spotting early on.
It’s never just about the work—it’s about the people who are doing the work. Let your client know your team has reviewed the plan, and point out items you discussed as a team and how you arrived at some decisions.
There’s a lot of value in showing your clients the human side of your process and your team because it’s often easy for them to think of you as a “shop” who just gets the work done. They don’t know all the details—and maybe they don’t want to. But if you give them insight into who’s doing what and any other key things your team is working on, it’ll help your client relate to your team a bit more.
It can be tricky talking to clients about other work you’re doing, but it shouldn’t be. The fact is, you’re a business, and you have other clients and projects. Show your clients the fact that you take great care to schedule your time and projects in a way that works for you and for them.
If you’re really good at this, you’ll have scheduled your project around others, and there will be a little bit of a cushion in your timing to make future shifts. Even if that isn’t the case, it’s a good idea to set the expectation that a 1-day delay on your client’s side may not equate to a 1-day delay on your side.
Simply letting your client know that their project plan is crafted around other client projects—with careful attention to resource allocation—will help them understand the importance of sticking to the dates and process you’ve outlined.
You’ve put a heck of a lot of work into creating this plan, so talking through the details to make sure everyone is comfortable with it should be pretty important to you. If this means giving your client and team some extra time to think things through on their own, so be it.
Of course, you never want this process to take so much time that it delays any of the project work. You can create the plan while work is underway—but don’t let it go unconfirmed for too long. You want to be sure you have an agreement because the details in your plan will dictate so much—including your immediate next steps.
Just because you’ve confirmed your plan it doesn’t mean you’re done with it! In fact, you’ll find that your plan is a living and breathing document. At a minimum, you should update the Percent Complete column on your project on a daily or weekly basis. It’s gratifying to see that number go up!
Plus, the chances that you’ll have to make adjustments here or there is pretty significant. It’s not common for every project to stick to its plan 100%. Life happens, ideas impact process, deadlines are missed, and plans change. That may mean your deadline has to shift or maybe your process will no longer work for the project. As long as you’re flexible and can adapt to the revolving door of changes, so can your project plan.
It’s really easy to be frustrated by a change in plans, but don’t let it get to you. Remember, you’ve got a team who’s already committed to coming up with a plan that works and a client who’s educated on your process and deliverables. You’ve done a lot of work to get these people on board with the plan! They’re invested enough now in the plan and the project to be willing to help make adjustments or think through new ways of working if needed.
Finally, be sure to provide updates to your team and your clients as plans change—or even stay on track. Keep your plan in an accessible place, but use status reports to communicate how things are going in relation to the plan. You’ll always end up on top if you’ve communicated or resolved an issue early on—or even paid a compliment on a job well-done.
With TeamGantt, project planning is a cinch! And you can rest assured your project plan is always dressed to impress.
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