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10 tips for project success: keep communicating

Far too many projects fall apart simply because of a basic breakdown in communication; it’s often the difference between a project succeeding or failing. Communication is the glue that holds projects together; internally with your team to get the project done and externally with the client to move the project through the process – getting briefs, timely approvals and ensuring they feel like they’re ‘in the know.’ We need to be excellent communicators: with our teams (and bosses) and with our clients. So how can we get better at communicating?

Understand and be understood

Let’s start by getting one thing straight. Communication isn’t giving your team a half-assed brief on Slack or spending the day with your headphones on, furiously typing your way through an argument with the client on Basecamp. Communication is understanding and being understood; it’s a two-way process. Technology and project management tools are great but sometimes they can lure us into thinking our job is done when we’ve typed something and hit enter. It’s not. It takes a lot more effort than that and requires us to listen, engage and respond to ensure that those who we’re communicating with have a shared understanding with us.

Get your java on

Meetings can be great for giving status updates, presenting work and to get consensus on issues. But you should really be doing all you can to prevent meeting glut. The real communication around a project should be outside of the meetings – whether it’s a quick daily call, ongoing status updates by email, collaboration and conversation on Basecamp or best of all, a catch up over coffee. Get some face-time going. The more touchpoints you have with your client, the more solid the relationship will be, and the more likely the project will be a success. Communication gets you continually realigned, and if you’re doing it frequently enough you’ll ensure you are successful as you’ll never deviate far from where the project needs to be, to be a success.

Sharing is caring

‘I wish my project manager would stop giving me so many project updates.’ – said no client, ever. Wear them down with love and attention! If it doesn’t work at least you had fun trying, you might even get to like them.

Check out:  10 top tips for creating cost estimates: Do your research

It’s very difficult to over communicate to your client. No one likes being the last to know, especially clients. It’s because their asses are on the line – if you don’t deliver it’s on them. Drip feed information so that there no surprises; an ongoing conversation mitigates against any surprises but more importantly allays any fears that they might have. Communication and collaboration are essential and the better they are, the more chances you will have to succeed.

But the client’s not responding

Here’s the bad news. It’s probably your fault. Yes, you’re not hearing back from people but why not? Have you given your client a heads up that you’re going to need something from them? Do they know when the deadline for them responding needs to be? Do they know what the impact on the project will be if they don’t respond? This brings us back to our first point – when you’re communicating, if the client’s not responding, you’re probably not being clear enough.

Communicate harder. And again.

And let’s be honest, have you really tried? Yes, we’re all busy, and they are too. By default, we’ll all naturally gravitate to the path of least resistance and just ping an email and think we’ve done our job. But communication isn’t communication unless the person you’re communicating to understands what you’re trying to tell them. Don’t just send an email. Whenever you possibly can, go and see them. Then pick up the phone. Yes, try their landline, and their mobile and the switchboard. Try to IM them. Then email them. Then send them a meeting invite with an agenda. Then text them. And then repeat until you get a response.

What do you think?

What do you think? How important is communication to ensuring your project success? I’d love to hear if you’ve got any thoughts on ensuring project success in digital project management. Join the conversation below and let us know what you’re thinking!

Ben Aston

About Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and VP of Client Services at FCV, a full service digital agency in Vancouver, Canada. I've been in the industry for more than 10 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from video virals to CMS’, flash games to banner ads and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

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