A crucial step when hiring a new web development agency is building a strong relationship with the project manager that will be in charge of your project.
The client-project manager relationship is no different from any other business relationship, where two people work together towards the same goal. In this situation, both you, as a product owner and decision-maker, and your project manager work towards the same goal – bringing your project to life.
And, like in any other business arrangement, a shaky relationship between the two of you will negatively affect the project itself in several ways:
- Trusting one another will be difficult;
- Your communication will be tense and inefficient;
- You will be fighting for control constantly;
- And the overall collaboration will be awkward and uncomfortable for everyone involved in the project – much like having adults arguing around you as a kid.
So, what is there to do and how can you ensure a strong relationship with your project manager, and by default with your team?
How to build a strong client project manager relationship
It’s not easy to build a strong relationship with someone who is virtually a stranger. And, as is the case with any type of relationship, there is quite a bit of work that goes into it. However, it is not impossible and it can be quite simple as long as you ask the right questions:
- Is everyone clear of the project’s goals?
- How are we communicating throughout the project?
- What information is important for me?
- How often will I get my updates?
- When and how should I communicate changes in the scope?
- How often will we meet to discuss the project’s progress?
- Can I be an integral part of testing and QA?
- Can I trust my project manager?
It’s all about communication, trust, and patience.
Below, we will take you through each point and hopefully but the end you will have a better strategy on how to build a strong relationship with your project manager, and give your project the best success chances you can.
1. Is everyone clear of the project’s goals?
Before the it even started, you and your project manager have already discussed a list of goals for the project, which included:
- Deadlines and budget
- Must-have and nice-to-have features;
- User journey;
- Contingency plans, etc.
However, once the project starts, the project goals might change or switch priority. So, a good practice is to have a list of the project goals that is updated at all times and that everyone has access to. When there is a change in the goals list, make sure you communicate it to your project manager, preferably during a meeting.
This can be done during sprint meeting, or by setting up a meeting specifically for this topic. Regardless, the key point is to ensure that your new goals are clear and everyone is on board.
Since changes will occur, it is also advisable to simply review your goals during future milestone meetings or sprint meetings just so you make sure everyone is aligned.
2. How are we communicating throughout the project?
Another key move is to plan your communication channels for the project in advance. Therefore, you and your project manager should agree on how updates are communicated, based on their urgency and importance.
For example, milestone updates and sprint plans should be communicated face-to-face as they are quite important to the project. Simple updates or follow-ups can easily be done via email. In fact, every follow-up should be done over email, so both you and your team have a written version of your communication.
And, if there is something urgent, like a bug or a clarification, it can be discussed over the phone. This way, you send your message quickly, you make sure nothing is lost in translation or writing, and neither you nor your project manager loses any time.
3. What information is important for me?
Establish what “important updates” means for you, as a product owner, and what “important updates” means for your project manager and your team.
In most cases, the project manager and the team will see technical updates more important, and will want to communicate them both face-to-face as well as via email. But if you are a less technical person, an important update for you might be when a feature is ready to test.
Whichever the case, ask yourself:
- What updates do I want to receive in a meeting – physical or online?
- Which updates do I want over email?
- When should my project manager just pick up the phone and call/text me?
Then align your expectations with your project manager so they know exactly what your priorities are. This will also make the communication smoother, as they will feel comfortable calling you if there is an urgent matter to communicate, or emailing you if they want a meeting or simply wish to send an update.
4. How often will I get my updates?
Now that you have a clear overview of what information is important to you, and how you want that information to be delivered, it’s time to think about updates frequency:
- How often do you want to be updated, and
- What do you do when you feel left out?
The answer is not that straightforward in this step, and patience is key. The reality is that you may have agreed on weekly updates at first, but depending on the complexity of the project, the length needed to develop and test a feature, or your availability, might change.
For example, during some sprints, you will need constant updating, but in others, there will be nothing to “report”. So, a good practice is to plan your communication schedule every sprint with your project manager so both of you are aware of what your expectations are.
5. When and how should I communicate changes in the scope?
Changes are a key element of agile management and are both expected and encouraged. And the sooner you communicate them the better, especially since, depending on the complexity of the change, a specific amount of planning will be needed.
But how do you communicate changes? That also depends on the complexity of the task.
For example, a simple change such as replacing a Call To Action button in a WordPress project can easily be communicated over the phone. If you have a list of such small changes, then it’s best if you send them via email so you make sure your project manager has a written list of tasks you want them to look at.
But, when it comes to changes in the user journey, user experience, or features in general, it’s best if communicate them in a meeting with the project manager and possibly a developer. This way you can communicate clearly your change request, discuss the complexity of the change, and agree together on how to proceed.
However, one change might seem simple for you, while in fact, it might be extremely impactful on the project’s scope, development time, and possibly deadline and budget. So, it’s advisable to start with an email or a phone call, where you explain briefly your change to the project manager.
From there, they should be able to assess if it’s a simple task, or a more complex one, and how to proceed. Or at least they can talk to the developers and get back to you for a meeting if needed. All in all, the sooner they know about the change, the sooner they can help you plan it.
6. How often will we meet to discuss the project’s progress?
Usually this discussion comes with every milestone/sprint meeting, where you and your team take a step back and consider:
- Are we still on track?
- We made a few changes, will that affect future milestones?
- Will the changes affect our deadlines?
- And, will they affect our budget?
How often you have milestone meetings depends on the project, and usually the project manager already presented you with a plan for that. But, if you want to go the extra mile, have a less formal gathering with the team, like lunch or just coffee.
A relaxed environment allows you and your team to relax a little, detach yourselves from the daily tasks and see the bigger picture. They might also feel more comfortable during coffee or lunch and speak more freely, which will benefit your end results in the long run.
7. Can I be an integral part of testing and QA?
YES! In fact, most project managers will encourage you to be involved in the QA phase, because this means that by the end of the project you have already tested personally everything and approved it.
Also, you will know your platform inside out, so you don’t have to rely on the project manager to teach you how to use it.
“As Project Managers, we strive to provide quality solutions every time, and client involvement is vital throughout the development and QA processes. So, we encourage and welcome constant constructive feedback in order to ensure a successful delivery.”
Daniela Todorova – Projects Director, Wiredelta
Naturally, testing while developing saves time and development costs. But it also helps post-launch, or during focus group tests because you know all the ins and outs of you website or app, and you can focus on the user feedback instead of worrying what the next step might be, or what bugs you might encounter.
8. Can I trust my project manager?
According to Tatiana Kolovou, a renowned Business Communication Coach and long-time LinkedIn Learning author, it takes us less than a second to make a first impression. Within that blink of an eye, our brain decides if we want to trust the person in front of us or not.
This means that, in a split second, your brain will bombard you with a plethora of questions like:
- Do I like this person?
- Does this person like me?
- Are they professional?
- Have they ever worked on a project like mine?
- Do they have enough experience?
- Can they help me with my project?
- Are they a good project manager?
It sounds harsh, and the list can literally go on, but the idea is that every question above can be answered with “I don’t know“.
Then, should you trust your project manager? We don’t know, but you can trust that that every project manager who loves their job will do everything they can to see your project come alive. So, even if you feel like you can’t trust them at first, be patient and take a leap of faith – give them a chance to prove themselves to you.
Chances are, they are in the same situation – you, too, are a stranger to them.
A strong relationship with your project manager can ensure the success of your project. The better your relationship, the better you will communicate and collaborate with each other.
However, sometimes it will be hard to create such relationships with them, considering that you are investing a significant amount of money and time into a project that possibly can make or break your business. But keep in mind that their main objective is to see your project finished successfully. It’s literally their job.
- Be sure you and your team know and understand your goals;
- Make a communication plan and stick to it – when, how and what do we communicate?
- Have relaxed and non-formal meetings to discuss the status and the future of the project;
- Have patience and keep an open mind.
And if you need more assistance, reach out to us. Our experienced team of project managers and developers are ready to assist with a free consultation during which we can help you identify the challenges you are facing.