I get all sorts of reactions when I suggest giving a client access to the team’s project management software—some are skeptical, while others are violently opposed. But despite the initial resistance, they eventually see that there can be some great reasons for letting the client in.
1. The clients get more involved
You’d think that the clients would love to be involved, considering they’re paying for this project. But unfortunately many clients just hand it off to the PMO and forget about it, and need to be given a re-brief every time you have a status update. Giving them a sneak peek into the “kitchen”, as it were, can help retain their interest.
2. More transparency
If the client ever has doubts on whether you’re earning your pay, just tell them to log into the system and check your task assignments. If they have a clearer idea of what’s going on, they’ll (hopefully) be more appreciative of your team’s efforts.
3. Opens up discussions
Many project management tools provide task-specific discussion boards where team members and clients can discuss project-related issues or topics. An open channel like this is vital for clear project direction.
4. Get direct feedback
No more middlemen! Now, if a client or user encounters an issue, they can communicate their feedback straight to the team. This is especially important if the issue is time-sensitive (like a live website).
5. Client access demonstrates trust
You’re taking a big risk letting an outsider into your project management system. The client needs to understand that and take care not to abuse this privilege. You’re placing a lot of trust in the client, and they need to handle it responsibly.
6. Version control
Are your project documents constantly getting updated? The next time someone creates a new version, your stakeholders don’t have to try to get them all straight. Just upload it to the project management tool’s library and send everyone an alert. The stakeholders will log on and instantly see the latest version—no file juggling required.
7. Cut down on email
Anybody who has an office email account knows how hard it is to manage. But when a client has access to the project management tool, they’re (hopefully) going to be posting their questions and comments in there, where it’s most relevant and visible, and not in your inbox, where you’ll have to digest their message and redistribute it to the team.
8. Fewer meetings
Remember what I said about email? What if I told you that it gets even better than that?
Now that the client is up-to-date on most of the project (and can even participate on their own), it eliminates the need for most client meetings! Less meetings means more time actually being productive!
9. Empowers team members
Now that the client can communicate with your team directly, they’re not just faceless drones anymore. They’re actual people who can speak for themselves and for the team. They can communicate directly with the client and get experience on client management, diplomacy, and customer service—skills that will serve them well as they move up the ladder.
Before you rush off to get your client a guest account, remember that not everyone deserves this kind of honor. There are clients who will abuse this system and see it as an opportunity to micromanage, nitpick, and basically become even more of a nuisance than they already are. As their project manager, you should be able to discern whether or not giving the client access to your project management system is either going to help or harm.
If you’re confident the client can handle the responsibility, then throw the doors wide open and let them into the factory!
Image credit, Flickr, Candice Lee