DemandGen is a customer-driven organization. That means everything we do for our clients can be customized in order to meet their specific business and technology requirements. We have recipes that are tried and true, but as technology continues to change there’s no cookie cutter approach for some requests where we can follow steps 1, 2, 3 and then presto!
We constantly have to be agile to figure out how to make things work in new environments. And it doesn’t necessarily always work the first time, or maybe even the second time. Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. That’s just life. It’s how you handle the situation that matters, and having open and direct communication helps everything run much more smoothly.
I’ve seen projects go sideways and upside down, and over the years I’ve put the following strategies in place to stay ahead of the curve and right the ship when necessary.
- Use a good project management tool to identify at-risk items early on
At DemandGen, our services teams use a project management tool to assign and track projects and tasks. We use LiquidPlanner, but any project management tool that meets your specific needs will do.
This kind of tool makes it easy for everyone to be on the same page — especially important in today’s remote workforce. It also provides team members with early warning indicators when something is starting to go off course, allowing you to run your projects more efficiently and communicate more effectively.
Despite the internal visibility these tools provide, they don’t eliminate the need for ongoing communication. You’ll still need to hold regular meetings internally and with your client to review your project plan and action registry, as well as discuss potential issues and of course next steps.
- Respond to shifting priorities as fluidly as possible
The word “bottleneck” exists for a reason, unfortunately. Things just get backed up sometimes for various reasons. Different people on different teams have different priorities, and that includes the client. Maybe a quick-turn internal project pops up that they have to drop everything for, or maybe you’re waiting on the client or other party to provide essential assets that could put the agreed-upon date at risk.
As soon as a shift in priorities or an impact to a deliverable or the timeline occurs, communicate how it will impact the rest of the project. Let everyone know what’s at risk and devise a plan to mitigate that risk.
If there is a holdup on the client side, sometimes it’s simply a matter of making the best use our resources by reassigning them. Maybe the launch is pushed back a week. Or, maybe you can’t get everything out at once now, but you can implement a phased approach to keep things moving forward.
Regardless of the potential impact, the most important thing is to communicate honestly and openly as early as you can so that everyone can come to a mutually acceptable solution.
- Communicate with peers and clients quickly — regardless of the news
It’s a natural inclination to not want to report anything negative, but it puts all parties in a much worse position than if you’d addressed the issue head on. And once you break someone’s trust, you’ll be hard-pressed to gain it back anytime soon.
Withholding bad news always comes back to haunt you eventually. I tell my team all the time that nobody wants to hear today that they’re not getting what they expected tomorrow. At the earliest sign of any roadblocks, it’s our job to communicate that the project is at risk. Not sharing critical information not only makes you look bad, but it also puts the client in a really awkward position with their superiors.
Communicating with peers and clients as quickly as possible will help correct an issue faster, instill trust, and avoid even worse fallout than if you had kept the information to yourself. Your internal teams and your clients will truly appreciate a straightforward approach so that you can get to resolution much more quickly.
- Work as a team in order to succeed as a team
Technology changes so quickly. Every now and again, a client comes to us with a request that we haven’t tackled yet (which is always exciting!). If that’s the case, we let the client know it’s new to us, but we can work together to figure out how to make it happen.
We’ll test a few possible solutions and then let the client know what worked, what didn’t work, and what our suggestions are to get them where they want to go. The solution may not come simply, but continue to communicate throughout the process so that everyone is in lockstep and decisions can be made quickly on which direction to take to best accomplish their goals.
If you find yourself in this situation, don’t promise smooth sailing — assure them that you’ll work with them to figure it out. Working together as a team to identify a solution bolsters trust, strengthens the relationship, and lets the entire team feel responsible for the success of the project.
Preparing for the unknown
Every client is unique, so you just don’t know what each day will bring. It’s like that line from Forrest Gump: “My mom always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Clients want a partner they can rely on, and partners work together to achieve their goals. The next time you’re facing an obstacle that threatens to impact a project, remember to be open and honest with both clients and internal team members, face these obstacles head on, and solve them together.
Every day is like a new beginning. And while you can’t predict the future, you can control how you react to unplanned events. And when things don’t go as planned, communication and collaboration are key!
Christina Yozallinas, Director of Services Operations, helps ensure our team’s operational effectiveness and utilization by establishing operating procedures, streamlining processes, monitoring performance dashboards, and managing our internal systems used for collaboration and learning. She defines and implements our onboarding procedures for new team members and helps ensure smooth facilitation of resource management by aligning client needs with internal resources.