10 Ways a Client Can Help Keep a Project On Budget & Time
Heather Muety, Former Senior Project Manager
Behind every successful project there is a combination of good ideas, thoughtful planning, and engaged teams.
We're often asked by clients how they can work most effectively to ensure project success. Behind every successful project there is a combination of good ideas, thoughtful planning, and engaged teams. And to be sure, there are some repeated missteps which can easily be avoided. Here we share 10 ways a client can help keep a project on budget & time.
1. Stay true to your goals and prioritize requirements
During a project, many things will change. However, your goals should remain consistent. Every decision we make is purposeful, with your business goals in mind. If goals change mid-project, it can have a significant impact. It can require anything from rethinking the concept altogether to modifying the core features and base requirements and will likely increase time and/or budget. It’s not ideal but sometimes unavoidable. In this case, be prepared to prioritize and make other items a lower priority so we have time and budget available to address the new requirement.
2. Understand your scope well
“Scope” has become such an ugly word. A word that seems synonymous with limitations, but in reality, scope should be your friend. You should be well-versed in what you contracted us to do. Scope is the amount of effort we can expend using the budget you have agreed to. It determines hours, dollars, and deliverables. Intimately understanding how your scope equates to effort will help you understand how far your budget can extend. We are not averse to changing deliverables if they help you achieve your goals, but the most successful client understands that if your budget can’t change, your scope may need to.
3. Keep communication efficient and stay engaged
We know that you’re busy and this project may not be your sole focus, but if you want to stay on time and on budget, we need you to stay engaged. Let us do the heavy lifting. Just be ready to review, offer your insight, help shape priorities, involve the appropriate members from your team as necessary, and ultimately approve when it’s right so we can keep moving.
4. Send concise communication that requires action
Please shared feedback. It should be consolidated action items or questions, and it should come from you (or the main point of contact). Don’t forward emails. The most inefficient use of both of our time is spent scrolling up through other people’s emails trying to decipher what the email is about, what opinions to ignore, and what to act on.
5. Have your team in place
Before your project begins, determine who needs to be involved and who owns approvals. These may or may not be the same people. A huge budget buster is introducing new stakeholders at the end of the project who haven’t been part of the discussion, the explorations, or the decisions. If someone has approval power, they should be actively involved in the project. If that person has limited availability and can’t attend important meetings, share this with us in the beginning of the project. When we know this up front, we will work with you to identify ways to effectively share progress throughout the project and solicit feedback before it’s too late.
6. Limit the people offering opinions and feedback
You might feel like you are covering yourself by allowing everyone a seat at the table, but another budget buster is having too many opinions. The work should be based on data, strategy, and business goals. Personal opinions and motivations from numerous individuals will leave you with a hodgepodge of work and no clear message or goal for your end user. Be your project’s defender and narrow down your team to only those who need to be there. A good way to keep non-stakeholders engaged is to allow them to contribute their ideas prior to the project.
7. Be honest with yourself and with us
Everyone thinks they can move faster than they can. Things happen. We understand. They happen to us, too. But if you know that your organization is typically slow with approvals, or that your stakeholders are busy and you can only get time with them once a week, let us know before we begin. We can help you plan around this and avoid large gaps in productivity. Extending the timeline or putting a project on hold due to unplanned, slow approvals always impacts the budget.
8. Limit revisions
If we had a nickel for every time we’ve heard “I know I’m not a designer” followed up with “Can we just see what it would look like if you implemented this cool design I found in this magazine, and let’s try using a blacker black, more white space and a bigger logo,” we’d be rich. Design revisions are part of the process, but they can be effectively managed by consolidating feedback into action items and not looking back once approved. And, remember that the revisions and should directly correlate back to the goals we set at the start of the project. Nice-to-have design revisions or “Let’s try one more thing just to see” might seem small now, but that time could be spent enhancing features that will ultimately be on the site.
9. Review twice, approve once
It's never good for anyone when an approved deliverable (.Final) becomes (.Final-Final-v5-b-Final-Seriously-Kill-Me-Final). The best thing you can do for your budget and timeline is to act swiftly, be authoritative, and move forward. There is always room for tweaking, but “approved” should mean the same thing to you as it does to us.
10. Trust us
You hired us because you knew we were up to the challenge. Now let us prove you right. We want the project to be a success just as much as you do. When you look good, we look good. But heavy management won’t produce better results. It will just burn your budget. Staying engaged, offering clear and concise actionable feedback, and trusting our team to do our best work is the best way to make your project a success.
When it comes to ensuring your project's success there are many contributing factors. However, if you are able to follow these ten tips you can help foster an environment of creativity and possibility that will produce the best results for you and your organization.