Managing Project Delays when it’s the Clients Fault

| September 23rd, 2008 | , ,

Regardless of how well you plan a project, or how well you think you know your client, you will most likely run into project delays. Learn to effectively communicate with your clients & notify them of project delays. Often times, the delay is caused by the client. They might take longer than expected approving a design comp or delivering web site copy. We’ve had some clients go off the radar for two or three years before suddenly reappearing, wondering where the project is at and how we can get it finished.

So how do you practice effective communication with clients and keep them from entering the vortex and stalling out a project? Here are some tips on how to manage a project successfully and how we anticipate and accommodate client delays.

Address the issue before the project begins

        Before you even begin, a skilled project manager should let the client know that project delays on their part will push the deadline back. They will assure you it won’t happen, but it does. It also helps to have a clause in your contract that grants you permission to cancel the contract if the client goes AWOL for a given number of days.

Go light on the scheduling

        We used to generate detailed project plans complete with resource allocations and milestone dependencies. Then the client would take an extra week to sign off on a web design comp and the whole project plan would be off. Trade in the low-level project management approach for a looser methodology. We’ve blended aspects of agile methodology with traditional issue-tracking-like task management. Find a flexible method that works for you and go with it.

Hold weekly meetings

        Client delays are much more likely to happen on larger projects. When deadlines are still a few weeks or months in the future, there isn’t as much driving the client, until it’s too late. Scheduling a weekly meeting with your client will remind and encourage them to be working on their deliverables.

Get them help

        Many times the client will have a valid reason for late delivery. Their copywriter may have bailed on them, or a designer may not be able to capture the look they were after. If the client is struggling finding resources, give them some referrals for copywriters and designers you trust. They will be thankful for the help and you will be thankful to have the project back on track.

Track everything

        Some clients will delay a project without realizing they are doing it. For example, they might start asking for additional features that weren’t part of the original contract. Keep an account of every work request and track your time during the project. That way, when the client questions why the project is not on time, you can run a report and politely show them the cause of the delay. If you don’t already have a tool for tracking time & tasks, sign up for a free trial with Intervals.

Ultimately, your relationship with the client is the most important factor for keeping a project on schedule. Assuming you’ve established a good working relationship, these project management tips, along with Intervals project management time tracking software, will keep a client partnership healthy and help avoid project delays.

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John Reeve

John is a co-founder, web designer and developer at Pelago. His blog posts are inspired by everyday encounters with designers, developers, creatives and small businesses in general. John is an avid reader and road cyclist.
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Michael Payne

Michael is a co-founder and product architect at Pelago. His contributions stem from experiences managing the development process behind web sites and web-based applications such as Intervals. Michael drives a 1990 Volkswagen Carat with a rebuilt 2.4 liter engine from GoWesty.
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