How to Create Long-Lasting Relationships with Clients

Having an effective project management strategy is a must these days. Learn how project managers can help your business grow. 

How to Create Long-Lasting Relationships with Clients

Long-lasting customer relationships depend on a few factors, chief among them being effective project management. This means being able to see a project from its beginning to closure, manage communication with stakeholders, execute it effectively and make sure that every aspect within the project lifecycle is considered in its entirety.

The Project Lifecycle

Initiation

The main facets of this stage are the measuring of feasibility and ultimate value of the project to see if it’s worth pursuing to completion. This counts for any project, from an event to the creation of a new drug or the prospecting of a new mine. If the project is not financially sound, then it cannot rightfully be undertaken. Secondly, even though it may be financially sound, if it serves no quantifiable purpose, then the money can be better spent on something else. For example, in the case of the creation of a new drug, the project manager would work with the R&D department of the pharmaceutical company to determine competitor products; the scope of those existing products’ efficacy; whether there is any patent infringement inherent in the new drug; and whether this is a product that the market will genuinely want.

Sometimes, there are flukes within the project management lifecycle and the project manager must be able to adapt the entire project plan, including execution and control to successfully close the new project. A good example would be the discovery that Sildenafil, brand name Viagra, which was meant as a drug to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension also had the added benefit of treating erectile dysfunction. This meant that the drug’s development, as a project, had to be adjusted. New laboratory tests had to be conducted, marketing materials had to be reconstructed and the name of the drug itself had to be redrafted.

So, initiation is simply the understanding of a project’s scope and then making sure that subsequent project lifecycle steps are carried out accordingly.

2) Planning

This could be said to be the most crucial step as it includes creating a framework for how the project will be managed with time and other limitations in mind. This step makes use of what is known as forecasting to extrapolate all the aspects which will affect the project. If it’s a new building being erected, weather and the general climate of the given area will play a big part in the project timeline. If an area is known to be rainy, the construction crew might have to work intermittently and make sure that whatever work is done during a specific “push” period, is done in the most efficient way possible.

Also, planning makes sure to keep in mind division of labour and regulatory and legislative obstacles which may affect that. If the project employs migrant workers, they may need work permits, which is an obstacle to project success.

The formal agreement between a project manager and a project’s stakeholders is usually in the form of the following documentation:

  1. Scope Statement − A document that describes the projects benefits, objectives, key milestones and expected deliverables.
  2. Work Breakdown Structure − A diagram that puts the project’s scope into manageable sections. This will depend on the type of project at hand. If the project is pharmaceutical in nature, as mentioned above, it will involve laboratory tests, quality assurance testing and beta-testing or focus-group testing.
  3. Gantt Chart − A Gantt Chart is a horizontal bar chart developed in 1917 by Henry L. Gantt, an engineer and social scientist. It was originally used as a production control tool but nowadays it is used in project management to graphically illustrate a schedule of project tasks. The vertical axis will typically show the separate tasks to be performed and the horizontal axis will show the total time span of the project broken into increments of days, weeks or months. The horizontal bars may overlap, since sometimes project tasks are not conducted discretely from each other.
  4. Risk Management Plan − A document that identifies all possible risks and the strategies which can be put in place to mitigate them.
  5. Communication Plan − This document highlights how key milestones will be communicated to the relevant stakeholders of the project. Will a report be drafted monthly? Or will a monthly report be supplemented by a weekly email of tasks achieved and obstacles met? Relevant stakeholders, especially investors, would like to know that their interests are protected and that the project is going well.

3) Execution

This is one of the harder steps in the project lifecycle to get right, since what looks good on paper may be a nightmare to execute. There may be unforeseen obstacles like a global pandemic or war (on a large scale) or on a smaller scale, a supplier might go bankrupt or lose skilled workers in a freak accident. You can never really anticipate the uncertainty inherent in execution and as a project manager, you need to keep a cool head and have your wits about you. Adaptability is key in this stage as real-world dynamics may force plans to be restructured on-the-fly.

In an ideal world, the project would go according to plan and the only obstacles may be a straggling worker dealing with a personal issue, making a certain task a day or two late; or stakeholders demanding more accountability from the project manager and the project team.

4) Monitoring & Control

Some resources on project management regard this step as part of Execution and not a separate step of the project lifecycle. However, it is distinct enough to be considered a separate step because it involves instituting measures of monitoring and control after execution has happened. What this means is that most of the project execution will have already happened and what can be considered a “soft close” will be at play. A “soft close” refers to completion of a major milestone, for example, completion of creating the actual drug, in tablet form, in terms of a pharmaceutical. The drug will then undergo rigorous testing to make sure that it is viable in the free market.

Monitoring and control cannot be a step in every singly project, but it does apply to projects where ongoing measurement of success is crucial to project outcomes. So, the measurement of an advert’s success in a marketing campaign, a code review before software is deployed in a staging environment, and the list goes on.

5) Closure 

This is the stage when the project is really and truly over. For most products this will be when they are released to market, and for services, it’s when the business is sure that employees are fully trained and can meet the needs of the customers and fulfil the business’s service promise. The project manager will most likely need to collate all the reports provided throughout the project into one final, closing report for stakeholders.

Effective Management and Communication

As we have discussed, being a project manager requires a great deal of smarts, both technically and socially. In order to grasp the basics of project management and learn how to better coordinate your business efforts, from marketing, to sales, to product development, into successful closures; it’s advisable to do some learning. There are project management online courses which will equip you with the necessary skills to meet the complex needs of a project.

A project manager should be able to communicate with all project stakeholders, and this does not just refer to those who have invested money, but those who are investing their time. This includes all workers. People who will be working on every touchpoint within the project are stakeholders and they also deserve to have updates about project advances. Communicating with all these different stakeholders requires tact and thorough understanding of both the broad and granular aspects of the project. This means communication must be audience-specific and outcome-specific. Investors will care about the financial aspect of the project because their money is on the line. Software developers will need to know how code reviews are scheduled because it affects them directly.

It is up to the project manager to make sure that communication channels are open, clear and relevant to the parties on a need-to-know basis.

Popular Tools and Techniques

In the digital age, there are many project management software packages which can help teams to coordinate their workflows for project success. A quick list includes Basecamp, Microsoft Teamwork Projects, Plutio, Zoho Projects, Trello, JIRA, Asana and Podio. You will find that as a project manager, unless you are a consultant, you will have to use the in-house project management software provided by the business. They all have their advantages and disadvantages, and many will have singular value-adds. You will need to train your team on how to use this software effectively to log time, progress and obstacles because if you do not, it will hinder your project’s success.

You will not need to train any of the high-level stakeholders on the project management software because they do not need to understand the day-to-day running of the project.

This article was submitted by GetSmarter.

Read Previous

South Africa: Unemployment Insurance Fund will pay for annual leave days taken during COVID-19

Read Next

Viral Anxiety and Panic Attack App Offers Free Premium Access to Help with Increased Anxiety around COVID-19