Remote Project Management: A Practical Guide to Managing Client Expectations

If you are reading this article, you were already managing projects remotely to some degree in the pre-pandemic era or were thrown into the deep end of the pool and asked to swim as soon as WFH became the new normal. In either case, you managed to survive and probably even thrive at managing your team remotely. However, the biggest challenge has likely been managing client expectations. Whether you are managing internal or external clients, below are some of the common expectations and concerns that clients have and how to address them.

Are my deadlines going to be met?

This was a common client concern even before WFH but accentuated now greatly. Some of the ways you can assuage this concern are to:

  • increase the frequency of your client communications – if you were meeting your client once a week, make the e-meetings twice a week
  • be transparent about the possible risks and how you plan to mitigate them
  • push hard for a realistic set of deliverables – it’s always better to under-promise and over-deliver!

Is my project team working at 100% efficiency?

Clients always doubted whether all the project team members were 100% efficient even when they were working from the office. Now they probably get nightmares. To ensure that your client sleeps peacefully:

  • create an even more granular plan than your current one and micro-manage these tasks with your team
  • hold regular video conferences with the client and your team – and do set a dress code for client meetings so that you don’t have team members turning up in their night wear
  • be flexible with your own working time to manage the client and your team – remote project management is not for the faint-hearted

Is my data secure?

While you have already ensured that the team has access to the right set of collaboration tools and technology for working remotely, is the client’s data secure? WFH brings its own set of data security challenges and hackers are having a field day in exploiting holes in your security layers. In such a scenario:

  • work more closely with your IT infrastructure team
  • ensure that security audits are done more frequently
  • push your organization to shift to standardized platforms if that’s not already the case – an Amazon or Microsoft has better security measure in place than your own internal IT

Can the project costs be reduced? Can you do some additional work for free?

Most clients believe that you/your organization are saving costs with WFH through lower infra costs, lower electricity, lower everything…. hence expecting that either you lower the project cost or add some additional work (scope creep) for free or worse still…. do both. Ensure that:

  • you are communicating the costs of WFH clearly to your client – these would be additional infrastructure costs, communication costs, security costs, your own additional hours, etc., etc.
  • depending on which side of the demand-supply equation is skewed, you may have to accept lower costs and/or scope creep in lieu of a long-term relationship or not be afraid to say no.
January 4, 2021