Ep 4 Project Communication

Daniel: Welcome back to Web6. This season we’re talking about how to navigate the website project process. I’m Daniel Cowen.

Chris: And I’m Chris Lafay.

Daniel: And today we’re going to be talking about communication in the web project process and answering the question, how do I communicate with my project manager?

Know Your Primary Contact

Chris: One of those, one of those first things that especially when you’re working with an agency that happens, you’re initially working with a salesperson most of the time, and that salesperson is not going to be your main point of contact throughout the project. And, at the very beginning, once you, once all this contracts are signed, all the T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted, you’re going to be passed over to your project manager who’s going to walk you through the rest of your project process. And, a lot of times that project manager doesn’t know everything that the salesperson does. You could have internal meetings on top of internal meetings with each other, and they’re still not going to have that inherent knowledge that comes with being that main person in the sales process.

Daniel: And I think something I’ve experienced is where clients, I’ve worked with a salesperson and they get passed to a project manager is they sometimes have an assumption that the project manager’s going to have like an intimate knowledge of what your businesses and what the project is going to be. But even if they do, they’re probably gonna ask you a lot of those same questions again just to hear it from you. So, I would encourage you, you know, through the process, don’t be confused or even frustrated that people along the way are asking more questions about you and about the project. It might be attempting to feel like, “well you should already know this, I’m paying you to know this.” But actually they might just want to hear it with fresh ears so that they can put that information into the strategy of your website project.

Chris: It really does help. Like, cause there’s been times I’ve been on both sides of the coin. I’ve been a part of the sales process. I’ve been part of the project management process. And when I’ve been a PM, I haven’t known what has happened with the sales piece or haven’t been a part of it, I guess I should say. And it really does help hearing things directly from the source because a lot of times you don’t say things the same thing twice. And when you say –

Daniel: The same way?

Chris: The same way twice a day. Okay. Yeah, sorry. And hearing that fresh and hearing it from that different perspective just really helps kind of, you know, have a light bulb go off effectively. And one thing to do when you’re initially working with your project manager is just making sure that you have frequent touch points with them. And what a lot of agencies and even freelancers do is when a project starts is they set up a regular meeting cadence. Sometimes that’s once a week, sometimes it’s every other week, but that’s not something that’s happening. I would highly recommend trying to get something on the calendar with that person you’re working with on a regular basis.

Efficient Communication Keeps You on Budget

Daniel: Yeah, absolutely. I think that having a scheduled out meeting will help you not feel like you’re left in the dark as the client. So if that’s not a part of what your project manager’s process already is, it’s certainly something you’re well within your right to ask for. And it also keeps having that structure keeps you from texting or calling the project manager at all times of the week. And what that, what that does, you know, clients might not realize this, but it will throw off the budget of a project. If a project manager is having to spend a lot of extra time outside of the scheduled meetings, talking with the client trying to help reassure them. And I mean handhold them at times it can throw off the budget because typically, especially if you’re working with an agency, they have to pay each of their employees or subcontractors by the hour. And the project manager is probably working the same exact way. So if he has, if the budget allows for, you know, 25 hours of project management time, but you’re calling him, you know, three times a week usually because there’s not a scheduled meeting, you’re trying to get information or trying to find out how things are going, you’re using up the time in that budget and somewhere that’s going to get shifted. So to keep communication clear, to keep the budget right, for your sake, so that your — your — your project budget is getting spent on design and development and not overspending on project management.

Chris: The actual creative part.

Daniel: Right.

Chris: Like why you hired the person for.

Daniel: You know, you can help that by sticking to your scheduled meetings and if they’re not already scheduled, asking for those meetings to be scheduled out.

Talk About Problems ASAP

Chris: And, kind of on the same line as communication, is if you’re ever frustrated with the process, don’t wait until you’re at this boil over level because most of the people that we work with are pretty open in their communication. And, so the more open you are about, “Hey, I haven’t heard from you in a week and a half or two weeks, let’s get something on the books. Let’s chat about this.” Because then once, if you let that kind of stew for two, three, four weeks, however long that might be, being, getting blown up about it is not going to help that much. It’ll, it’ll make get am I get some things moved along a little bit faster. But in all honesty, the more you can express that frustration earlier on and softer, that’s going to do a lot better. Good for you in the long run in terms of the course of the project than it would just to sit there and wait and wait and wait on it.

Daniel: Yeah. And that applies to the, to all the parts of the process. Even, especially the design process. I’ve had a client who we thought they loved the design that we were working with, but they just wanted to see some tweaks. So they kept for revisions and revisions. And finally, after several weeks of going back and forth, they finally, you know, said that they were mad and that they hated the design. And, and it kind of came as a surprise to us as, as the designers and project managers because she was trying to hold back cause she wanted to sort of try to work with the design that we had presented and, and all on the way had had made given approvals for certain parts of the design. But in the end she just wasn’t happy with it. And it was, it was pretty challenging, you know, from a relational standpoint to, to go through that. But even more important than that is, you know, you can protect your investment in your web project by being more open up front. So if there’s something you don’t like or something that you’re unclear on or something that you are unhappy with, you know, just try to be open about communicating with it and, and treat each other like people. I think that’s something that I’m really –

Chris: Right.

Daniel: About is just be a real normal, good human being to the people that you work with. And don’t assume that the person you’re working with, you know has it out for you or is trying to, to take advantage of you in some way. If you get a sense of that early on, you, maybe that’s not someone you should work with. But by the time you’re in a contract, you, you’ve, hopefully you’ve decided you feel good about working with them. So, you know, try to assume the best and be really open in your communication. And again, like I said in another episode of this of this show, don’t assume anything. So if you like something, say it. If you don’t like something, you know, say it. If you are unhappy, say it.

Chris: And, I want to actually want to kind of go back to last episode. We were talking a little bit about how you’re hiring your development or creative team for their expertise as well as their ability to be able to accomplish the task. On the flip side of that coin is you’re a part of this team as well.

Daniel: Absolutely.

Chris: You’re not just hiring the team and letting them go off onto their own little cubby hole and come back –

Daniel: Right.

Chris: Later with a final product. It’s you’re a part of this and your expertise is valued and without it, your team is not going to be able to give you what you’re, what the end result that you’re looking for and so making sure that you’re giving insights to how your business runs, the goals of your business, how you run it, why you run it, how you solve problems. Be an active part in the project process and be willing to have that kind of that open communication about your business and be invested in that process. The more, we had a client one time and we do wire frames, a lot of our clients look at the wireframes and say, check, done.

Daniel: Right.

Chris: I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. It looks good, but this particular client said, “Hey, this wireframe structure, my site does not line up with what I’m looking for.” And immediately after we had our big group call, he called me back and said, “Are we as the, see the, this looked bad.” And I told them, I was like, “No, you’re more invested in it than most of our other clients are.” And we went through the process, only took one other round of wire frames and the second time he was like, “This is fantastic. I love it.” And then we went immediately into the design phase and nailed it the first try. So you put that effort in and you’re willing to have these conversations and provide your insights, especially at the upfront at the beginning, you set yourself up for a lot of success at the end.

Chris: Well, that about wraps it up for today. Come back and talk to us next week.

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Dawn Audano

Dawn Audano connects the dots, a committed minimalist who strips projects down to their most essential—and therefore, efficient—elements. She makes space for creatives to engage meaningfully with the task at hand, cutting to the heart of the matter. With experience in radio, film, event planning, and motherhood, she expertly juggles the details and enjoys handling the tiny pieces that can make or break the flow of ideas.