Why you need project managers who can have tough conversations with clients

Dec 13, 2013
Alexandra Barcelona

How do you avoid giving unrealistic timelines to clients or losing your shirt on your next project? You need to have project managers who know how to have those tough, sometimes uncomfortable, conversations with clients. Christian Burne, VP of Services at Oshyn, describes why it's so important to set those expectations early in your project at Tech Mornings.



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Video Transcript:

Audience member: “I have a question about, we talked a lot about money and deliverables, I have a question about how not to be a people pleaser in terms of time and scope. Often times we work with development firms who are downstream from us and we push clients to not have an infinite timeline, or give them as much time as they can, and other times we work with people upstream and they’re like “oh, they can get it done in a day, it’s cool.” How do you guys strategize to avoid that?"

Jose Caballer, The Skool: “Great question. Developers are usually technical people and they want to, not necessarily please you, but they know they can do that in one day. So you’re actually challenging them with “Here’s what I want to do” and they’re like “Pft, I can do that in my sleep!” So they’re going to answer the question from that point of view, so you always take that with a grain of salt and you then have to figure out, you know, multiple it by four and that’s how long it’s really going to take. How do we deal with it?"

Christian Burne, Oshyn: “Everybody, in my experience, everybody on the delivery team is going to be optimistic and positive and wants to do a great job for the customer. And they will try their best, and that means working late and working through lunch to get it done. So in my experience, what it takes is you have to have that person, like Elias and Heather, that are the project manager that are comfortable having the hard conversation with the customer and saying no in the most diplomatic and nicest way and framing it in such a way that it’s the best thing for the customer, because it is the best thing for the customer. If you ask us to do this and we work super late and you burn out the team, like Skot was saying and Elias was saying, you’re not going to have that team four months from now if you keep burning us out. Or, if you ask us to do it there’s going to be cost implications to that. So, you have to find somebody who’s going to be able to have those hard conversations and not afraid of doing it as early as possible.”

Jose Caballer, The Skool: “A producer. The first hire I made when I was growing my small boutique agency was a producer. That was the first person I hired, hard-core, full-time employee. So that helped me a lot.”

Christian Burne, Oshyn: “That’s actually one of the first things, when we’re interviewing the producer/project manager type, one of our questions is “Tell us what the hardest conversation you’ve had to have with a client is” and that will give us an idea of how willing they are and how many times they’ve gone through the fire.”