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Meeting client expectations with Backlog

How-tosProject managementBacklog
Backlog Staff

Backlog Staff

April 08, 2024

At a high level, when you’re managing a client project, you likely have two essential goals: 

  • Completing the project successfully (meaning a high-quality product delivered on time)
  • Maintaining a positive relationship with your client

If you want to achieve both of these goals, you need to manage client expectations.

“Managing client expectations” means ensuring clients understand what can reasonably be accomplished within the project’s parameters and timeline. 

Let’s say your app development team has just picked up a new client who needs you to develop a new e-commerce app. As the project manager, it’s your responsibility to manage the development process and your team’s relationship with the client.

The client has ambitious expectations about the quality and turnaround time of the new app. Unfortunately, you fail to communicate the feasibility of this request to the client, such as its technical complexity, budget constraints, and potential delays. 

Now, the client has unreasonable expectations, which your dev team will need help to satisfy. Because of the short turnaround, they will likely either miss the deadline or deliver a substandard app. 

Both options result in the client losing trust in you and your team, damaging your relationship and reducing the likelihood of their working with you again. 

You can avoid this scenario by: 

An effective, easy-to-use project management solution like Backlog can help. By acting as a comprehensive hub for your project, it:

  • Simplifies communication between project team members and clients
  • Connects tasks to specific goals and milestones
  • Enables you to analyze progress and manage resources seamlessly
  • Streamlines version control and code review for better quality control

In this article, you’ll learn how Backlog can easily help you manage and surpass client expectations. We’ve broken it into six sections for easy reading: 

Section 1: Understanding client expectations

At a basic level, a client’s expectations are what they hope to get out of the project. This includes a variety of factors that could significantly impact the project, such as: 

  • Desired outcome: The specific deliverable, or more abstractly, the result they hope to achieve as a result. For example, they might want software to manage better a company’s finances or an eCommerce web app to improve the checkout process and convert more customers.
  • Features and functionality: The product’s unique specifications, such as specific user interface elements, reporting capabilities, or other functionality.
  • Timeline: When clients expect to receive updates and deliverables. For example, they might expect weekly status updates from the project manager, with deliverables released to them for review on a monthly cadence. 
  • Budget: How much funding the client expects to invest in the project. 
  • Quality standards: Clients expect reliable, user-friendly, visually appealing software free of bugs or errors. Depending on the nature of the project, they may also have more specific quality requirements. 

Managing client expectations is essential if you want to ensure successful project delivery and build a positive client relationship. 

But it’s not always easy. Common challenges include: 

  • Scope creep: A longer or more detailed project scope than expected, often due to unexpected complexity or late requests.
  • Technical complexity: Clients may not understand how complex their requests are. It falls to the Project Manager to explain this to avoid scope creep.
  • Unclear or changing requirements: Clients who don’t fully know or understand what they want may not articulate their requests well, increasing complexity and project scope. Furthermore, clients may pivot their priorities or tack on requests late in the game.
  • Communication gaps: Communication breakdowns exacerbate other problems. For example, if technical complexity is not addressed, the client may expect a faster turnaround than is reasonable. And if the PM does not provide regular updates, clients won’t be aware of delays or complications impacting their projects.
  • Resource constraints: If team resources are not managed effectively–for example, managing workload distribution and setting appropriate deadlines–the project could suffer delays, disappointing the client. 
  • Timeline pressure: Clients often have aggressive deadlines for project delivery, which may not align with realistic development timelines. Effective communication is essential for setting a realistic pace. 
  • Quality vs. speed: Clients may initially prioritize speed of delivery over quality, only to be disappointed when quality suffers as a result. Better communication can help to alleviate this issue. 

Lay a solid foundation for your project’s success by establishing the client’s expectations early in the project lifecycle. Then, use Backlog to document these expectations in detail in each task so your team knows how their success will be measured. 

Documenting client requirements in Backlog

Make client expectations clear to the team by documenting them in each issue. 

Here’s how. 

First, click + Add Issue in your project sidebar or the + icon at the top of the screen in your Global Navigation menu to launch the Add Issue dialogue. 

First, use the title and description to add all relevant instructions for your team. This includes: 

  • The feature being designed
  • The expected specifications
  • The client’s relevant quality standards

Next, upload any relevant documentation–interviews with the client, examples of similar products they like, diagrams, or other important references.

Then, set the task priority, associate it with key milestones, and use the start and due date to set the project timeline. 

Now, when you assign team members to work on the task, they will have a clearer understanding of what it entails. If they have additional questions, they can ask you (or the client if you’ve given them access) in the task comments. 

Section 2: Planning for success with Backlog

If you want to get ahead of client expectations, align them with your project plan ahead of time. This ensures that: 

  • You and your client are on the same page as to what those expectations are.
  • You agree on the project timeline and delivery cadence.
  • The timeline is realistic while also addressing client needs.

By doing your project planning in Backlog, you can align with the client and your team more efficiently. 

Let’s walk through that process together. 

First, agree with your client on a project cadence. In other words: 

  • What process expectations do they hold? For example, do they expect to review each task themselves before it is finalized, or do they just want to receive the final product?
  • What are the key milestones along the project timeline? What do they entail? 
  • When do they expect to hit those milestones?
  • If they are not themselves milestones, when should the client receive deliverables? 
  • What kinds of communication do they expect, and when? (More on that in the next section.)

You and the client should work together to come to an understanding on the above questions. Try to establish a baseline understanding of their absolute requirements and where they are flexible. Then, educate your client on the team’s capacity, the technical complexity of their requests, and other issues that might make the timeline difficult to achieve. 

Once you’ve reached a consensus, it’s time to set up your Backlog project. 

First, create your agreed-upon project milestones. To do this, go to Project Settings and select Versions/Milestones

To create a milestone, enter a descriptive name and set its start and end date to place it along the project timeline. Then, use the description field to document exactly what it entails, including: 

  • Deliverables that need to be finalized
  • Applicable quality standards
  • Which issues or tasks relate to the milestone
  • Dependencies (if any)

These milestones will be used to populate your burndown chart, which you can use to track and monitor your team’s progress. 

If you and your client agreed upon a custom workflow, set it up in Project Settings by selecting Statuses.

Here, you can rearrange your issue statuses to align with your task workflow and create new ones as needed. For example, you may wish to add a status for “internal review” by your team and “client review.” 

Finally, it’s time to detail your project timeline by creating issues or tasks. Assign each task to its relevant milestone for more detailed tracking, and set start and due dates to place the task along the timeline. 

Once each task has been created, review and optimize your timeline using the Gantt chart

A Gantt chart is a project management tool that lays all tasks and milestones along a visual timeline. It helps you to see how much time is allocated for each task, manage dependencies, and adjust accordingly.

If you catch an error–for example, you allocated too little time for an important task–you can adjust by clicking and dragging on the chart. This update will be reflected throughout the project. 

If you do make changes at this point, remember to communicate those changes to your client for full transparency. 

Section 3: Communication and transparency

Just as projects evolve, so too do client expectations. Regular, transparent communication is the best way to stay ahead of this. 

Ideally, you and your client will agree upon a communication plan for the project, including what updates you’ll send, when, and when meetings should be scheduled. 

But you can take this a step further in Backlog. Here’s how. 

First, grant your client access to the project in Backlog. This ensures complete transparency regarding project progress and enhances collaboration. 

Go to the Members tab in Project Settings. Then select add a new member who is not a current user of this space to invite them as a Guest.

In Backlog, a Guest user can: 

  • Access the projects they’re invited to, including issues, project wikis, files, and code repositories
  • Create and update issues (unless you or another Administrator adds restrictions)
  • Upload and delete files
  • Comment on issues
  • Opt into notifications when high-priority issues are updated

This streamlines communication throughout the project because the client can check the status of any task at any time. 

With project access, they can also use the issue comments to answer questions and contribute ideas and solutions to eliminate roadblocks. And it’s a convenient way to streamline the feedback process while making it accessible to the whole team.

In other words, you likely won’t need to dedicate as much time to incremental updates because the client will have easy access to information whenever they need it. This transparency fosters trust and helps clients better understand the project’s scope. 

Section 4: Tracking progress and managing changes

As your project progresses, it is vital for you to stay current on the latest task and project updates, no matter your role. 

As the project manager, this enables you to manage deadlines and resources more effectively. 

As an individual contributor, it helps you continue making progress and pace your work.  

And if you’ve granted clients access to your board, they’ll be able to track their high-priority issues and communicate changes in a timely manner. 

At its heart, Backlog is all about task management, so it’s no surprise that it makes this process easier. 

Project team members can review all their assigned tasks–across all their projects–at a glance on their Dashboard. The My Issues widget consolidates all of this data for easy prioritization. Sort by status or due date by clicking the right column or using one of the built-in filters. 

For a more detailed view, access the project in question and open the Issues page using the Project Sidebar. 

This page provides an overview of all tasks within a project along with essential details such as: 

  • Task status
  • Subtask statuses
  • Assignee
  • Category
  • Version and Milestone
  • Timeline (Create, start and due date)

Project managers or clients can export this data to an Excel or CSV file for analysis. 

Do you prefer a simpler, more visual-friendly interface? The Kanban board displays each task as a card and organizes them into columns based on status–so you can instantly see how each task is progressing along the workflow. 

Click on any card to open the issue and review or update the details. Use the Watch button to track that issue and get notified of its updates. 

Once you’re watching an issue, you’ll receive a notification any time it gets updated–for example, when a teammate changes its status, adds details, or makes new comments. You can find these notifications by clicking the bell icon in your Global Navigation

Clients with guest access can watch their high-priority issues to receive instant updates rather than waiting for the project manager to send out project communications. 

To analyze task status in context and see how each one impacts the overall project timeline, refer to the Gantt Chart: 

Each of these tools is accessible to the entire project team and any clients you’ve granted board access to. 

Pro tip: Walk your clients through each feature when the project kicks off. This way, they can find all the progress updates they need without waiting for you to send them a recap. 

Section 5: Delivering on time and budget

Streamlining your project and task management has numerous benefits. It reduces confusion and frustration for team members and clients alike. It makes communicating and collaborating easier. And best of all, it improves the team’s ability to deliver on time and budget. 

Here are just a few benefits to consider: 

  • Improved task visibility and accountability: In Backlog, everyone can see who owns which task and how it has progressed. Plus, they can ask questions and contribute their efforts, leading to greater ownership over the final product.
  • More efficient resource allocation: Because you can easily see the project timeline, issue assignees, and dependencies, you can allocate resources and reassign or break up complex tasks to streamline the team’s efforts and eliminate roadblocks.
  • Real-time updates: With issue comments and automatic notifications, the most critical information reaches its audience quickly. As a result, the team can spend less time waiting for answers and more time working. 
  • Transparent prioritization: With easy-to-find task types, priorities, and deadlines, it’s obvious which tasks require the most attention. Your project team can use this transparency to focus their efforts on the most important ones, improving the project’s overall timeliness. 

For an instant view of your project timeline, use the Burndown Chart. 

This line graph tracks your project’s actual and planned progress against an ideal timeline. It acts as an instant snapshot of the project status, highlighting delays and showing your likelihood of successfully hitting your project deadline. 

If you notice a problem (like in the example above), head to the Gantt chart to identify the culprit, adjust deadlines, and redistribute your resources

With this process, you can quickly mitigate project delays and help your team finish on time rather than racking up additional costs with unchecked delays. 

Section 6: How Backlog helped Droisys collaborate with clients

Droisys Inc. is an IT management company. With 300 employees across the United States and India and clients around the globe, streamlining their communication, task management and collaboration was essential for them to grow. 

Enter Backlog–the perfect platform to manage multiple projects, streamline collaboration, and bring project communication together in one place. 

The Kanban board made it easy for even new employees to track and manage tasks. 

The Gantt chart streamlined their project planning processes, making it more efficient than ever. 

Best of all, the added efficiency made it easier to update their clients with the most relevant details. 

As a result, their processes and communication are more effortless. Their productivity has increased. And their management team has the comprehensive view they need to make smarter strategic decisions. 

Boost transparency and foster client trust with Backlog

When it comes to client management, nothing is more important than winning and keeping your client’s trust. The more transparent your processes are, the easier it will be to communicate with clients, share ideas, and keep them loyal to your business.

By granting clients access to their projects, you give them an instant view of project scope and status, ensuring more realistic expectations. Teams and clients can also work together to eliminate roadblocks, avoid miscommunication, and adjust to new challenges. 

With Backlog, you can plan projects more effectively, establish clear lines of communication early, track progress easily, and deliver on time. See for yourself how Backlog can improve your client expectation management and streamline your projects with a free trial.



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