This post is for all my DPM peeps out there. That stands for “digital project management” in case you manage projects from under a rock. So, while I no longer work full-time in digital project management (I only dabble, as now I am a strategist/writer full-time), I’m still passionate about client relationship management and making sure our lovingly crafted digital projects go smoothly. I’ve found that now being on “the creative side” has given me even more passion for project management, as I feel like I have a better idea of what it’s like for the people I used to schedule and plan for, both internally and externally.
But we’ve all been there: the digital project that goes completely off track and looks like it’s destined for the rubbish pile or worse, public consumption as a warped, ugly version of its formerly wonderful concept. Let’s face it, it’s usually a website.
So what do you do? How do you tackle this seemingly insurmountable beast and tame it back into a (oh god here comes a cliche) beauty? By following these oh so useful tips of course.
But first, we need to identify the signs of a project going off the rails… We’ll assume it’s a website for the purposes of this example because, well, it probably is.
I was recently lucky enough to attend CIMC 2016, a superfab digital marketing conference in beautiful Squamish, BC (about 45 minutes outside of Vancouver). I haven’t been to that many conferences in my time so far but I really wanted to attend this one because of the world-class speakers involved.
Surprisingly, a few of the talks that I didn’t think would be very relevant to me ended up being my favourite ones, and the ones that gave me some great new ideas to take back to work with me.
Not every project is going to be stuffed full of rainbows and unicorns. Even with the best of intentions on both sides – agency and client – sometimes things just go awry. Usually it’s due to miscommunication, or not managing client expectations properly. You, the agency, think your scope of work is super clear, but a client sees a different thing, you don’t communicate about it, and you’re unaware their expectations are too high until it becomes an issue and they’re unhappy. Not a good situation.
It’s hard to predict these things a lot of the time. Communication is hard. Agencies think they’re being straightforward, because they say the same terms all the time, but clients may not be familiar with those terms, or with digital processes. They may be afraid to ask questions, or to look unknowledgeable. Of course there’s no shame in asking questions, but who really likes admitting they’re not totally on the ball with what’s going on? Nobody. So things don’t get talked about, time goes by, expectations on both sides slip and then you find yourself where you didn’t want to be: client hell.
I don’t mean this to sound rude, or to snub clients. I love clients! They’re literally the reason I get to do what I love all day, and not have to live in a cardboard box. They make everything possible. And at the end of the day, they pay the bills. I work for each of them, and I keep that in mind constantly. Clients are not the enemy, clients are part of your team. And you can’t blame your client for having the wrong expectations unless you work hard to set realistic ones.
The problem with mismanaged expectations is that they can strike at any time. Even if your project is 90% done and you’re in the home stretch and so far all along everything has been great. Don’t stop communicating, or you might find yourself in hot water.