I get all sorts of reactions when I suggest giving a client access to the teams project management softwaresome are skeptical, while others are violently opposed. But despite the initial resistance, they eventually see that there can be some great reasons for letting the client in.
1. The clients get more involved
Youd think that the clients would love to be involved, considering theyre paying for this project. Unfortunately, many clients just hand it off to the PMO and forget about it, and need to be given a re-brief every time you have a status update. Giving them a sneak peek into the kitchen, as it were, can help retain their interest.
2. More transparency
If the client ever has doubts about whether youre earning your pay, just tell them to log into the system and check your task assignments. If they have a clearer idea of whats going on, theyll (hopefully) be more appreciative of your teams efforts.
3. Opens up discussions
Many project management tools provide task-specific discussion boards where team members and clients can discuss project-related issues or topics. An open channel like this is vital for clear project direction.
4. Get direct feedback
No more middlemen! Now, if a client or user encounters an issue, they can communicate their feedback straight to the team. This is especially important if the issue is time-sensitive (like a live website).
5. Client access demonstrates trust
Youre taking a big risk by letting an outsider into your project management system. The client needs to understand that and take care not to abuse this privilege. Youre placing a lot of trust in the client, and they need to handle it responsibly.
6. Version control
Are your project documents constantly getting updated? The next time someone creates a new version, your stakeholders dont have to try to get them all straight. Just upload it to the project management tools library and send everyone an alert. The stakeholders will log on and instantly see the latest versionno file juggling required.
7. Cut down on email
Anybody who has an office email account knows how hard it is to manage. But when a client has access to the project management tool, theyre (hopefully) going to be posting their questions and comments in there, where its most relevant and visible, and not in your inbox, where youll have to digest their message and redistribute it to the team.
8. Fewer meetings
Remember what I said about email? What if I told you that it gets even better than that?
Now that the client is up-to-date on most of the project (and can even participate on their own), it eliminates the need for most client meetings! Fewer meetings mean more time actually being productive!
9. Empower team members
Now that the client can communicate with your team directly, theyre not just faceless drones anymore. Theyre actual people who can speak for themselves and for the team. They can communicate directly with the client and get experience in client management, diplomacy, and customer serviceskills that will serve them well as they move up the ladder.
Before you rush off to get your client a guest account, remember that not everyone deserves this kind of honor. There are clients who will abuse this system and see it as an opportunity to micromanage, nitpick, and basically become even more of a nuisance than they already are. As their project manager, you should be able to discern whether or not giving the client access to your project management system is going to help or harm.
If youre confident the client can handle the responsibility, then throw the doors wide open and let them into the factory!
Image credit, Flickr, Candice Lee