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How to successfully manage project status meetings with clients

The status meeting is an essential for MSP’s and clients. Here’s how to manage them well.


How to successfully manage project status meetings with clients

 

How much time do you spend prepping for project kickoff and status meetings? These necessary meetings exist to keep your clients updated. But they are also an opportunity – and a danger zone. 


Handled well, these meetings can demonstrate your expertise, showcase your role as a trusted technology partner, and educate the client about the specifics of the projects you are doing for them. They can also be a rare chance to better understand the client’s business, team, and future technology needs.  



Executives believe 67% of

meetings are failures



Handled badly, though, these meetings could become a point of friction. One study found that executives believe 67% of meetings are failures. Managers spend as much as 50% of their time in meetings, at the expense of important work. Your client will not welcome another meeting that rambles, drags on, or is unfathomable.  


Careful preparation, smart tools, and clever strategies will help you run a tight, effective meeting that will accomplish your goals and avoid the risks.  


Here’s how. 



Is this meeting necessary? 


Meetings are time-consuming. Many could be emails. Some could be a glance at a dashboard. So, before you drag busy people to a meeting, ask yourself if there is a better way. 

If you use Perfect Project to manage projects, you can have predefined customer status dashboards that you can send as needed. You also have the option to invite clients into the platform to check the project status themselves.  


It’s not possible or desirable to eliminate every status meeting but, once you are certain a customer is comfortable accessing updates through the customer view in Perfect Project, you won’t have to do so many of them. You also can use those status dashboards to shorten your prep time and the meetings themselves. 



Prepare and share the agenda 


When you schedule a necessary meeting, create an agenda that outlines the key points, raises the questions you hope to get answered, and details the items you want to cover. Then send it to everyone who will attend in advance. 


According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), a poorly developed agenda is one of the main reasons for status meeting dysfunction. The agenda is the meeting roadmap. Draw an accurate one so you don’t get lost. Using a detailed agenda can cut meeting time by as much as 80%. 


  • Include the topics that are up for discussion – project updates, problems, solutions, long-term planning, action items, etc. – and name the person who will discuss each topic.  

  • Include a timeline. 

  • Detail how much time is allocated to each topic.  

  • Put the topics in order of priority so you hit the most important issues, even if a key stakeholder is called away.  


Another major problem with status meetings, according to PMI, is that no one keeps an eye on the clock. So, don’t just include the timeline in the agenda. Keep an eye on the clock as the meeting unfolds and stick to it. 



Show up critically prepared 


People often spend as much as four hours preparing for status update meetings. Being prepared – with the right data and questions – creates a meeting that is efficient and focused. But with Perfect Project in your toolkit, you don’t have to spend that kind of time.  


A status meeting needs to provide: 

  • Task updates 

  • Schedule updates 

  • A budget status 

  • A review of the scope and objectives of the project  

  • A discussion of current or anticipated risks 


This data is easy to find, display, and share right from Perfect Project dashboards. You don’t have to gather updates from your team since those are captured and tracked as people work. And you can share that information – already in comprehensible graphics – right from the tool. 


Share a view of the project’s critical path in the meeting. This high-level view of the project is perfect for helping people quickly grasp where the project is, where the bottlenecks are, what’s causing holdups, and what mitigations you plan to implement. 


critical path network diagram

From there, you can drill down into the project to uncover the reason for delays or problems if needed. This is particularly useful if the holdup is caused by the client. You can illustrate – without an awkward accusation – the problems those missing pieces are having on the entire project. 


The critical path itself – especially one that is up-to-the-minute accurate and based on live data – is a project management best practice. Being able to drill into it to find the problems and mitigations demonstrates to the client that you have an uncommonly good handle on the details of their project. And, since the visuals at every step in that path are clear and compelling, there is no need for you to spend hours building a slide show to illustrate your points. 



Leave the jargon out 


A common challenge MSPs face when communicating the details of projects to clients is describing technical issues so that non-technical people can understand them. This is especially difficult when you are handling complex technical problems, and your client works in a non-technical industry.  


You might live and breathe jargon and acronyms. But leave them out of this meeting. In different industries, the IT acronyms you use daily could have very different meanings, which can lead to confusion.  


Prepare your technical explanations in advance and identify terms that are unlikely to be understood by someone outside of IT. Add definitions for those to your visuals and to your explanations. 


Better still, step back from the technology and use stories, with people and human actions, to illustrate concepts or problems. You can explain a network outage with a metaphor like “traffic jam” or describe a malware attack as an attempt, by a thief, to break into the business through the network. Explain the use-case benefits of a new tool or software specific to the customer’s industry. 


Unless your client is very technical, focus on the business goal, the added features, the solution, and the benefits – with real-world examples – rather than detailing capacities, bandwidth, and speeds. To the uninitiated, these numbers are confusing or meaningless. 



Share data effectively and efficiently 


Data is a powerful tool for demonstrating the progress, performance, and value of a project. But, if your delivery is dry, it can be overwhelming, boring, or misleading. You also have to be careful to only share data that everyone in the meeting should have access to.  


Whenever possible, use visuals to present your data. Charts make it easy to grasp complex data quickly and Perfect Project can help you build them.  


Pick the visual best suited to the point you are making or the data you are describing, too. Use a pie chart for proportions, a bar chart for comparisons, or a line chart for trends. Use colors, shapes, or icons to help your audience grasp key data points or patterns. 



Clarify client responsibility and expectations 


Once you eliminate or reduce the need to hold status meetings, the goal of those meetings will likely be to clarify the client's responsibility and expectations.  


With the critical path on the screen, you can easily review the scope and objectives of the project and illustrate the what, when, and why of their responsibilities. If you are working toward a closer relationship with the client, show them where, in Perfect Project, they can find information about their tasks and how to ask for help, within the tool, from your team members, at any time.  


With Perfect Project, you can spend less time preparing for meetings and more time impressing your clients and deepening your role as a trusted partner.  


Even outside of meetings, these tools improve your collaboration with your clients and grow their trust in you. Perfect Project provides a virtual workplace that brings your organization and your clients closer together and improves project execution. Isn’t that one goal of status meetings?  

 


For more ideas about how to use Moovila’s AI driven project automation platform to better communicate with your clients and manage your MSP’s projects visit the IT Services area of our blog or our webinar library 

 

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