Posted on May 13, 2014 · Posted in Communication, Management, Risk Management, Small Business

You get assigned a project, or maybe as a small business owner you need to delegate or assign a project to a team member. You’ve spoken to the client, maybe on numerous occasions already, and you’ve got what they want and what they are expecting down. Now you know you need to translate what you understand and what needs to be done to a supplier or to one of your project managers. Red alert! Huge risk area.

So what are some ways to ensure that you are clearly setting expectations with your customer and managing those expectations to a supplier or project manager all while minimizing risk? Here are three fool proof tips for setting and managing project expectations.

  1. Know Your Audience. So you get a call, lead, or email from a sales rep or directly from a customer. You may have a series of questions to ask a customer or sales rep, depending on your audience, of course. You obviously wouldn’t ask the same questions or in the same form or demeanor to a sales rep as you would with a customer. You also may ask more in depth or internally-related questions to a sales rep, and may save the details and focus more on the needs and wants when speaking with a customer.Risk Area: Remember your audience and phrase your questions accordingly.
  2. Gather Requirements. The second step is to properly gather requirements. If you as a project manager or small business owner are working with a sales rep and a customer, this can be a little tricky when it comes to gathering requirements. How a sales rep might close the deal or the requirements he or she may gather from a customer may be based on his or her interpretation, but may be interpreted differently by an in-house team member or project manager.Risk Area: If this structure sounds familiar, then how do you plan on closing the communication gap? Perhaps it’s worth having a conference call with the sales rep and customer so everyone is on the same page and can openly and freely ask questions and properly gather requirements.
  3. Documentation. After gathering requirements and asking the right questions and getting all the information down, all the while mentally formulating a plan, making your own judgment calls, and envisioning deliverables, the next thing any small business owner or project manager should do is put all those specifications into formal documentation that will move with the project along to a fellow project manager or team member or supplier.Risk Area: Similar to the above regarding having the initial conversation with a customer or sales rep, documenting specifications is another area where small business owners and project managers need to remember their audience. For example, would you send special pricing considerations or account history information to a supplier who is doing a portion of your production work? Maybe you would send them some account history, for example company policies or work that your firm has done for them in the past, but you probably wouldn’t send them pricing info. Project management language and vocabulary should be specific and relevant to the work they are performing.

Setting and managing project expectations with both a customer and supplier or project manager is a giant first step to taking on or assigning any new project. There are of course many methodologies behind gathering customer requirements, and many project risk areas that go along with them. But a good and thorough project manager or small business owner will recognize the problem areas and learn to develop their own methodologies for properly gathering requirements.


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