How do we set the right expectations with our clients? How do we make sure that they understand exactly what the responsibilities are to assure that the execution of an elearning project we were hired to develop runs smoothly through its life cycle?
We assign a project manager to work with the client to communicate all the tasks, responsibilities, due dates and risks. The project manager’s responsibility is to make sure the client understands and signs off on the project schedule. This should be enough right?
Sometimes it is not.
A client will look at a project schedule and read a task, see who is responsible for completing it, and agree on the date it must be completed by. S/he will have “signed off” on the schedule. Agreement has been reached.
And then, client tasks (which we have absolutely no control over) are not completed on time.
- “The SME got pulled to another, more pressing, project.”
- “We are still compiling global feedback.”
- “We weren’t aware that legal has to give a green light and they said they needed at least 2 weeks.”
- “Sorry, my priority this week changed and I had to focus on something else.”
You get the picture. My project managers have all complained about this. How do we handle this? We just do.
Our mantra is that “the client rules.” We are extremely flexible and allow for — and know how to handle — these types of delays. The problem is when at the end of a project, a client comes back to us and says: “The course was great but unfortunately it was too late.”
Granted, we have all of the emails that clearly point out that the project’s delay was not our fault but the client’s. But so what? Ultimately, it is our project, and our responsibility. And nobody is going to care whose fault it was. The client is just going to remember that it was “too late.”
I constantly coach my project managers on this issue. The best, and most productive, thing to do to counter this kind of response is to educate, educate, educate. Educate the client about the process of developing elearning. Educate the client about the effort that each task will entail. Educate the client about the inter-dependencies of a task. Educate the client about the repercussions of missing a date. Educate and communicate.