When a client signs your team or your company for completing a project for them, they have a set of expectations from you. Mastering the right methods of managing your clients is surely an ongoing process. But when done right, it brings an immense amount of benefits for your business.
Along with the focus and capabilities that your team has, the processes and methodologies you use while managing the client’s work play an important role in delivering the end products in the best possible way within the given time and budget.
Here we are discussing how agile project management can help you with client work.
Let us first understand what Agile Project Management is
Let’s put you in the shoes of a client. Imagine yourself as a homeowner who wants to transform his kitchen into a modular one. Now, you hired a contractor to do the job for you. On having the final work done and using your kitchen for a few days, you now feel that the number of drawers is less and you want to replace some of the cupboards with drawers. But making any changes now will be a costly affair. This method is not agile.
If the contractor had shown you how the whole setup looks after completion of the first stage before cupboards were set, you could have figured out the need of adding more drawers (maybe from your experience of cooking in someone else’s kitchen for those many days). Making changes as per the requirements of the client would be comparatively easier and economical at that time. This is what we call an agile way of managing projects.
So basically, Agile Project Management is more flexible than the traditional project management methods. There remains room to make adjustments through the course of the project to achieve optimal results rather than creating something which is not as useful.
You are allowed to make observations and decisions during the process. You can make changes as per your vision on what the final solution should look like while following agile project management methods.
Similarly, the same principle works in business processes. As per the agile methodology, the original plan is not as complete as we feel in the beginning. There remains space for intermediate feedback and necessary changes can be made as per client requirements or any unforeseen circumstances.
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Tools are only as Agile as you want them to be
Before I dive into the details of how an agile project management software helps in managing processes, let’s not forget that a software solution or tool can be as good as you let it be. By that, I mean making the most of a particular tool depends on the team using it. You can repeat the potential of agile methodologies well if the entire team uses it in that way.
How to use Agile Project Management Software for Client Work?
Let us understand how agile project management software adds value to the final output as well as makes the flow of processes smoother and faster for client work.
In an agile project management software, methodologies like Kanban provide clear visibility to clients into tasks and their progress status at all times. It becomes easier for clients as well as managers and team members to identify bottlenecks through visual progress tools.
In Agile Project Management software, you can see your entire project laid out in the form of individual tasks. It comes with complete details on deadlines, assignees, etc. Real-time notifications and division of tasks in various stages bring clarity to all stakeholders on task progress.
Tools like Kanban boards, Gantt charts act as mediums of visualization. It saves a lot of time wasted in communication task status and progress reports to the stakeholders.
As discussed before, agile project management leaves room for change in the planning along the way to meet changed requirements or unforeseen situations.
Let’s say there is a 6-month long project on software development. If we follow a traditional approach to project management and follow stringent rules and documentation without leaving any room for adjustments on the way. If the technology changes by the time our software goes live, the software will be a waste for the client and only disappointment is all they will end up with.
On the other hand, an agile project management system makes planning a lot more progressive by leaving room for adjustments on the go. Tools like the Gantt chart come handy for planning and make the process agile.
A Gantt chart basically provides a timeline view of all your project plans. All your project tasks, milestones, and events can be marked in the form of a timeline. This kind of visual representation lets managers and team members, as well as clients, view bottlenecks and emergencies in terms of overlapping tasks, dependent tasks, workload, etc. thus everybody can suggest and changes can be made to make a perfect plan. Also, if an unforeseen situation arises, teams can make changes to timeline view and see how the deadlines and budget is going to be affected by these changes.
Through software development lifecycles or designing processes, feedback plays an important role before approving the final version. Before achieving the final approval, you can do multiple feedback sessions.
Now, what agile project management software does? It saves teams from the chaotic process of going through the feedback process and implementing suggestions that you receive via email threads.
An agile project management software provides an inbuilt proofing tool; team members can share files there only and use its Markup and annotation tools to provide feedback.
A lot of time is saved and better and more organized feedback is provided. The best part is that issues can be resolved there only. The team members, as well as clients, can get access to all the previous versions of a file in case they want to go back to the previous version.
Accountability plays an important part in the optimum performance of the team members. Clients sitting overseas cannot exercise proper authority over teams in terms of accountability in the absence of proper methodologies; agile project management software ensures that effortlessly.
A clear demarcation of roles and responsibilities in project management software keeps everyone informed about who is responsible for what. Also, agile Kanban boards provide real-time updates to team members as well as clients when a task stage is moved. Thus it will maintain accountability and the next concerned person can take action appropriately. Managers, as well as clients, can add comments directly on tasks to ask any particular queries to the person concerned.
Communication plays a central role in making projects successful. It is almost like a backbone for project success. An agile project management software provides a central location to carry all the team communication.
Team members can discuss their project-related insights and ideas in features like discussions whereas one to one chat features allow team members to communicate with each other to ask questions or discuss stuff.
Other features in an agile project management software which facilitate communication are the task mentions and comments. These features allow team members to discuss task-related matters directly by mentioning each other on tasks without having to share the context over an email.
Clients can become part of important discussions and announcements thus staying in the loop of all the important information.
Reports play an important role while working for a client. Clear visibility into the workload, work hours, etc. is very important for a performance review as well as invoicing purposes. While manual time entries can waste time and seem unauthentic, inbuilt reports in an agile project management software can make a lot of difference in making the system more organized and effortless.
Timesheets are yet another feature that makes working with clients easier since you can have your time reports ready and export them to clients for invoicing purposes. Apart from this, the time tracking facility of a project management software helps in maintaining productivity levels by keeping team members focused and keeping distractions at bay.
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You can achieve faster results when collaboration with clients becomes simpler. You can spot & solve problems easily with agile project management software. Though an agile project management software does not always promise a faster delivery. There is a possibility that sometimes your projects might take a little longer to get completed. But they are more probably going to deliver satisfaction to the clients.
Agile project management methodology removes many redundant tasks from your workflow which wastes time. This way you can increase the efficiency of the teams. They can definitely focus on more important tasks to deliver projects on time.
This article is written by Vartika Kashyap. Vartika is the Chief Marketing Officer at ProofHub, a project management software. She has been one of the LinkedIn Top Voices in 2016, 2017 and 2018. She is also a contributor at Business.com, The Next Web, YourStory, and Huffington among others. Her articles mainly revolve around productivity and leadership.