Manage Project Expectations on All Sides

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Why do projects fail? 

While you can blame project failure on any number of things – budgeting issues, timeline overruns, poor planning, lack of project goals, inaccurate requirements, failure to consider risks – most of the barriers to success you’ll encounter can boil down to one thing: poor communication. More precisely, poor communication of project expectations. 

According to this guy with a PhD, 31.25% of projects fail because of changing and diverging interests among involved parties, and another 37.5% of projects are at least challenged by the lack of alignment of interests among stakeholders. Except for the most extreme instances of absolute converging or diverging expectations, most projects (87.5%) require you to have the ability to communicate and negotiate on objectives, goals and requirements. 

Because whether you realize it or not, everyone comes into a project with their own idea of how it’s going to go. Your team expects to have the time, resources and tools they’ll need to complete their work, management expects the project to be completed successfully without costing more time and resources than budgeted, your clients expect all of their requirements to be adhered to and executed and you expect people to speak up when they see something amiss.

Managing the expectations of everyone involved is no small thing, but you don’t have to sit back and wait for the chips to fall where they may. Taking an active role in project management from the very beginning can set you on a path to success and help you stay on track.

Engage With Clients From the Start

From the very first meeting, communicating your goals for a partnership and making sure you have a clear understanding of your client’s desires is crucial to set the tone of how you intend to manage the relationship. 

During the planning phase of each project, make sure you take the time you need to establish and document the objectives, goals, scope, budget, deadlines, potential risks and anything else that could impact the success of a project now or down the road. Teams love to race through this stage since it has none of the action and sexiness that the design, development and production phases have, but if you don’t get everyone on the same page now, you’ll ultimately disappoint someone later. 

Plan Roles and Schedule

This is especially helpful to manage project expectations among your team. People usually work best in a structured environment in which everybody understands their role and what they’re responsible for. By articulating what they need to do and when they need to do it, everybody will feel more comfortable and ultimately productive. These roles will also help team members know who they need to go to should they have a problem, which means fewer issues will escalate to the point that someone in management needs to step in, 

Defining these roles will be helpful for project leaders, too. You’ll know what you can expect from each person on your team, and you’ll know who to go to if, say, the copy is not ready by the assigned deadline, or if you have a question about the headshots your photographer took last week. 

Define a Communication Plan for Stakeholders

The best way to ensure the mismanagement of project expectations is to leave engagement up to chance, to not set up clear pathways for communication and to forego regular check-ins. If you don’t decide in the beginning how you and your clients will engage with each other, you won’t be able to cultivate a proactive relationship in which everybody feels comfortable speaking up when they believe the project isn’t moving in the right direction. 

Determine the level of engagement each client is comfortable with. Some people want to have a standing check-in on the calendar while some may only want to hear from you when you have something to show them. It’s up to you to communicate how you and your team want to proceed, as well. 

You’ll also want to decide from the get-go which communication you will be using. Is everyone good with email? Zoom calls? Or, do you have tools in place to aid in sharing deliverables and receiving feedback? No matter how you work, make sure you’ve explained to your clients how they can reach out to you and how you will reach out to them. 

Define Scope

Interests may evolve and change along the way due to completely natural circumstances. If you’re designing an app that helps people do their taxes, new tax laws may cause you to update your design. If you’re designing wedding invitations and the bride decides to run off with the best man instead, that will also affect your design. 

When it comes to dealing with these developments, it’s important that you define the scope of the project in the beginning and communicate your change policy. In other words, what changes to the initial scope are you willing to implement? Can you adjust the timeline at all? Is there any room in the budget to add extra pages to your web design? Is it possible to put a rush order on something? It’s important to state what you are and aren’t willing to do, so clients already know what to expect from you should a change arise. 

Manage Project Expectations With Proof Approval Software

In the age of technology, there are thankfully a lot of tools at your fingertips that make communication with team members and clients alike a whole lot easier. Ashore is one such app. As creatives ourselves, Ashore was built around solving critical communication problems during projects. Whatever format you create in (images, PDFs, videos, we even capture website pages) can be uploaded into Ashore and shared with your approvers in seconds. You have the option of a review link you can drop in a chat or email, or you can set up automated workflows.

When team members or clients are reviewing a proof, they have the ability to mark up and leave comments directly on top of a design. Comments can be replied to, and you can even share attachments. These capabilities enhance collaboration between stakeholders and provide context for their feedback, helping you to reduce the number of iterations a project needs. 

After all, when everyone comes together in a central place and shares their ideas and feedback, you can be much more confident that project expectations have been accounted for on all sides. Ashore allows you to manage key areas of communication during a project, and you can try it out right now with a 14 day free trial. Or, to learn the ropes, request a demo now!