When Should You Give Your Clients Access to Your Project Management Tools?
Some of the more popular project management tools these days offer you the option of creating limited accounts for your clients, so that they can see your progress, review changes and otherwise interact with you on the nuances of the project faster than they might otherwise.
Despite the temptation to add clients to your project management system automatically, it’s worth considering which clients are worth the time it takes to set up an account. In many cases, it may be better to handle the project management details on your end and keep your communication with your client to email and phone.
Where Will Your Client Look for Updates?
One of the big questions you have to ask yourself is whether your clients will ever log into your project management software, even with prompting from you. If the tool in question isn’t already part of their workflow or, worse yet, if clients aren’t comfortable with much online beyond email, asking those clients to use something new just puts one more hurdle between you and them.
Asking your clients to look anywhere except where they’re already used to can be a recipe for disaster.
Asking your clients to look anywhere except where they’re already used to can be a recipe for disaster. You can wind up waiting on approval or information that you won’t get until you remind your client to look in the project management system, and then walk her through logging in and using it a couple of times. If you’re on any kind of deadline, that lack of communication can be incredibly damaging.
That means that if you need your clients to regularly log into your system, you need to train them to do so. Whether you turn on email notifications, or you sit down and train your clients on how to use your project management tool, be ready to remind your clients as much as each individual needs.
Should You Work Through Clients’ Project Management Tools?
The flip side of this discussion is that many clients will expect you to work through their software. On the surface, the answer seems like it’s obvious — if that’s what it takes to get paid, sure! But the reality can be more complex.
We’re not always in a position to turn down work just because we don’t like the tools we’ll need to use.
It can take a lot of time to work through someone else’s system: you may need to learn an entirely new piece of software. If you aren’t getting paid for those hours, you can wind up taking a big hit on what should have been an easy project.
We’re not always in a position to turn down work just because we don’t like the tools we’ll need to use. But it can be a deciding factor when you have an option. If you know that you’ll be able to work faster on a project where you don’t need to do much more than email updates to your client (or if a client already uses the same project management software you do), that can be an important deciding factor in which projects you choose to take on.
It’s not necessarily possible to filter clients in advance based on the project management software each of you relies on. But it is a question to give some thought to, in order to increase the number of your clients who are simply easy to work with.
The Project Management Conversation
As early in a new client relationship as possible, you need to ask your client how she usually works. If you both use the exact same system, that will make the collaboration process much easier. If you don’t however, it’s important to discuss which option will move the project along as fast as possible.
If it’s a small project, or if you aren’t working with a particularly tech-savvy client, the best option may very well be for you to manage everything on your side and then send out updates by email as appropriate. There’s no need to make the process more complicated than it has to be.
For bigger projects, with more moving pieces, email may not be an option — it depends on your workflow and just how hands on the client wants to be. You might need something more robust. That makes having a conversation about how you will handle managing the project something that should happen as early as possible.
The worst option is for both of you to be tracking the project entirely separately through two different systems. It’s a waste of time and effort. If that’s the likely end result, don’t be afraid to learn a new project management tool in order to work through a client, because that may be the only way to speed up the process and actually complete the project.