Why project roles matter with clients

What if a class didn’t have a teacher? Better yet, what if in your job everyone did everyone else’s job? Sounds like chaos, right? We’ve all been in projects where it seems that no one knows what’s going on. Things aren’t getting done, people are “still working on it” and everything is postponed until the next meeting. This is a recipe for disaster. Because there is no ownership and accountability, this project is now a runaway train and it appears no one is willing to stop it.

I wrote an article a while back, Be the leader in the room, where I talk about being the leader of your project. Not only is it important to have a “Project Leader,” its important to have several roles defined. At the minimum, these are the roles that should be established before the project starts.

  • Client Stakeholder – This is the person who is paying you. The ultimate decision maker on client side. This person needs to be in all of the early scope and price negotiation meetings, in the Kickoff, Design and Production Review meetings and copied on any Change Order or financial emails.
  • Client Contact – This person is your “Go To” person on the client side. This person will most likely emerge as the person that “gets things done” or the person that people refer to in the initial client calls. If this person is not your designated Client Contact, ask the Client Stakeholder if they can be. Befriend this person. Be nice to this person and protect this person. Having a friend on the inside is absolutely essential for a projects success.
  • Project Manager – This person is the “Project Leader” and the main client contact on your side. This person should be attentive, responsive and productive. It’s imperative that this person be the project and client advocate, pushing the project along to completion. They are the most important person on the project.
  • Production Manager or Higher – This is the person that the Project Manager reports to. This role is important for when discrepancies in the project need to be escalated. This can be due to change orders, client complaints, development issues, etc. The client needs to be comfortable contacting this person if they feel important items need to be addressed.

When a project is greenlighted, i.e. contract signed and deposit received, these roles need to be established and referred to again and again in the project. It’s also important to keep these roles intact and not go around these people throughout the life of the project. It’s essential that all participants agree to work with each other in their respective roles and to enforce them with other team members as project advocates. At the minimum, having responsible people in these roles can without a doubt make your project a success.

Establishing roles within a project IS part of your process. Being the leader of your project, you need to explain to the client that creating these rolls will make their project successful and in fact, this is how you work. Reminding everyone in the project again and again is a pain, but taking these initial steps will set the perfect tone for how your project will unfold.

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