How to Manage Project Expectations

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  • 10/11/2017

    Happy client, happy life.

    Right?

    Maybe that’s not how the original saying goes, but any Account Manager would probably agree this saying is just as true.

    So, how can you keep your client happy? Well, we could write a blog series on that topic alone as there’s a lot that goes into it, but properly managing project expectations is a good start. While every client and project may have unique needs, we’ve found success with managing project expectations by following the steps below and sticking to these general guidelines.

    Start Strong and Plan Ahead

    At thunder::tech, every project starts with two kickoff meetings – an internal kickoff and an external kickoff. We are strong believers in kickoff meetings as they ensure projects and/or client relationships start off on the right foot.

    Depending on the project and client, other items may be included, but common kickoff agendas include the following:

    • Review the scope of the current project
    • Review benchmarks
    • Determine project goals
    • Set a realistic timeline and create a calendar
    Communicate

    It goes without saying that frequent communication throughout every relationship and project is key. If something is going well, tell your client/agency. If something needs improvement, tell your client/agency.

    In regard to managing project expectations, surprises typically aren’t a good thing, especially if it relates to budget or putting deadlines in jeopardy. When in doubt, over communicate on important items.

    Three of our preferred methods to keep the communication open and frequent are briefly explained below:

    • Status Meetings – A status meeting is a weekly or biweekly 30 minute call that lasts throughout the duration of the project.
    • Weekly Recap – If schedules don’t allow a status meeting, a weekly recap via email will also do the trick. Using a few lists and bullet points helps identify what was completed during said week, what’s on tap for next week and any dependencies.
    • Project Management Tools – Tools such as Basecamp or Teamweek, can be helpful especially when working with large teams, multiple departments or multiple parties.

    Depending on the type of project, its complexity and its length, reporting is an additional layer of communication that may be required. Reporting requirements can look different for every client and every project, but it is important to identify whether or not reporting is expected.

    Post-project Evaluation

    Although this occurs post-project, evaluation meetings help determine what went well and what could’ve gone more smoothly. Was the project delivered on time and on budget? If you expect to continue working with this client in a similar fashion, post-project evaluation meetings can help to improve your working relationship and allow you to be more prepared for your next project.

    Additionally, this an appropriate time to ask for constructive feedback to determine whether or not expectations were properly set and if those expectations were also met.

    So, at a high level, how can Account Managers manage project expectations?
    • Start strong and plan ahead
    • Communicate often
    • Take the time to evaluate the project and identify ways to improve on the next project

    If expectations are not set, there’s a high chance the outcome will lead to frustration and dissatisfaction on both sides of the relationship. Taking the time to have upfront discussions, internally and externally, as well as planning ahead will go a long way.

    Once you’re off on the right foot, keep the communication lines open from start to finish and there will be little to no room for confusion or dissatisfaction. When it’s all said and done, don’t forget to evaluate what went well and what could use improvement for the next time around.

    Following these guidelines, or some variation of them, will help manage expectations and leave a client happy in the end. After one successful project is complete and you’ve gained trust, determine what’s up next and do it all again.

    Interested in seeing how our team works in real-time? Drop us a note or tweet us, @thundertech.
    About the author::Corina Rolko is a Project Coordinator at thunder::tech. While supporting the Account Services Department and Business Development Team, her main focus is day-to-day project management and coordination with clients, department managers and production team members. While not coordinating organized chaos, Corina can be found at Target, or Title Boxing Club or watching the Tribe.
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