Clients are essential for almost all types of organisations since they are the direct sources through which businesses can earn their profits. It is important to summarise three important facts stating their importance:
Organisations can make money only if they sell products or services to clients
Repeat business forms the backbone of sales and helps to generate continuous revenue
If organisations do not satisfy clients and gain their loyalty they will end up struggling or shut down
At times, businesses have to go to extreme lengths to retain clients. As per one estimate, it may cost up to five times as much to find new clients as compared to retaining them. The client-organisation relationship is also very important for future growth and therefore it is valued highly. While it is important to ensure that client experience should be rewarding for both the business and the client, it is worthwhile to remember you are only just as successful as your last client thinks you are, and therefore efforts should be made to retain them at all costs.
Providing timely feedback to client goes a long way in fostering trust. When timed, accurate, and detailed reports are sent as feedback in response to client inquiries or clarifications, it helps him or her to get a whole picture of what was done to resolve a particular query or what efforts were put in by the team to accomplish a particular task. It conveys that you are concerned about the project and taking it seriously.
With offshoring activities on the rise, more and more work is now being done by remote or distantly located teams, and it is very common to see teams placed in India, Indonesia, or China handling projects for overseas clients. Apart from cultural differences and varying attitudes towards work, some of the biggest issues faced by offshoring companies and project managers in remote teams are a lack in collaboration levels and not executing projects jointly as a team, but rather completing them through individual efforts. When clients hire teams to execute their projects, they expect the entire team to contribute as a whole. Clients often feel uncertain about how their remote teams are performing and try to ascertain that resources hired by them are justifying their pay scales. In such cases, detailed reports can help to reassure clients that everything is OK and they are getting their money worth by investing in remote teams. This case is true when proper productivity levels are demonstrated to the client in addition to the reports.
Contrary to the belief that people living in different parts of the world are culturally different and may have their own unique priorities while doing business, it is a fact that human nature is not different after all when it comes to money and project deliverables. Whether you are doing a project for an American or a Singapore client, your client is going to feel impatient after a few weeks and press you to deliver and/or increase your productivity levels. Successful entrepreneurs and business persons are usually demanding and may also be aggressive while pursuing goals and objectives. They feel confident about progress when they see something tangible emerging out of the project in terms of business value, or hard-core profit.
One of the best ways to assure clients that enough and proper work is being done by the team and that the project is proceeding as per plan is to deliver small "chunks" of productivity, or a few product features at regular intervals of time. This is a core characteristic of all Agile frameworks and helps Agile to take a lead over other project management methodologies. Agile recommends that functionality be delivered to clients in "bits and pieces", but at regular intervals, and each feature developed in the sprint should possess a certain business value that is useful to the client. Moreover, the delivery of features should be regular and on time. Agile can speed up frequent delivery of product features.
Businesses prefer making quick profits. If the organisation is a public venture, or funds have been collected from stakeholders and investors, it may become even more important to generate quicker profits and mention them in annual report and general body meetings. Considering the intense competition levels in the market, it has become imperative for businesses to speed up development work and complete projects sooner by using emergent technologies rather than develop projects using traditional development methods and techniques. New technologies offer many benefits which can speed up project execution, however, there is a catch involved - people have to collaborate and gather feedback from the development process before analysing it and fine tuning the process to make it more effective and productive.
Collaboration plays a crucial part in managing projects nowadays and more and more organisations encourage development teams, sales departments, and R&D teams to share their findings while pursuing milestones and achieving goals. Agile and Scrum emphasize upon maintaining high collaboration and transparency levels amongst team members. Individuals have to share their knowledge and experience, and concentrate upon group efforts while delivering productivity. Increased collaboration levels make team working easier and more effective.
Most of the times you have to use money to develop your projects. The source of funding could be many - investors, stakeholders, start-up capital generated through campaigns, banks, etc. Investors expect managements and managers to make proper use of funds invested by them in the project. So it is important to manage the funds properly and maintain proper accounts so they can be easily audited. A worst case scenario for a CFO would be to explain a group of investors why certain account details in the balance sheet do not add up properly. The distrust created could make investors stop investing further funds in the project. A recommended way to maintain good rapport with investors is to have the accounts audited periodically and present the audit report to the investors before they demand it.
Project costs and budgets also depend a lot upon the particular management methodology used to develop a project. All project management frameworks propose efficient and reliable project execution - but in practise the models vary in their reliability and efficiency. There is no such framework which guarantees hundred percent reliability since it is up to the team how efficiently and precisely it implements a management model. A rule of the thumb is longer a project takes to become productive and start earning money, the more funds it will consume to sustain itself. Therefore, efforts should be made to use an ideal project management model that the team feels comfortable in using and which can support quick and efficient project development. By reducing the development time, projects can be made more profitable.
Teams can become productive when they are properly guided and controlled. A good project manager or a team leader will prefer playing a servant-leader role and try to facilitate the development process rather than order team members to complete their tasks and maintain an authoritative approach. Disciplined and self-managed teams do not require strong leadership, as is the case with Agile frameworks. However, in all other project management methodologies and frameworks the team leader plays an important part in leading the team forward and making sure that it accomplishes the project goals and objectives.
The term “client” has a broad scope and should be interpreted as such. The client could be a single individual, a group of investors, or stakeholders who’ve invested in the project. Even when the scope changes from project to project, the “client” entity should exist for each project even when the client is doing both – simultaneously investing the funds and developing the project. The term is used for a specific purpose since the business value in the project should be delivered to the individual who plays the role of a client.
The above mentioned five pointers generally count for retaining clients. However, these pointers may vary from project to project and the type of management involved with sponsoring the project. In each case, it is important to remain accountable for the project and let the client know how the project is proceeding. Client participation and collaboration in the project can further foster client-developer/client-management relationship.