Managing the client

Managing the client nuggets from the information badger

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Theodore The internet and social media 

  • The internet and social media are powerful mechanisms for identifying, developing and engaging with clients, but be clever in wise in how you use them.
  • Listen, act, and control your client and you will succeed; ignore, react, and refer to the contract for everything and you will fail.
  • Many clients are very IT literate but some are not; assume a client is not knowledgeable in your IT domain or capabilities until there is evidence otherwise.
  • Understand the client organisation, the role of IT in their business, their approach to managing the contract, and the ultimate users of your supply.
  • Confirm early that a client understands the contract, your supply, and the procedures for approving deliverables and milestones, gaining acceptance, and change control.
  • Cultivate and nurture a good relationship with the power sponsor; establish and use clear, multi-level governance mechanisms that include line management, executives and client equivalents.  
  • Stick to the contract but avoid antagonising a client by ignoring their expectations or genuine needs; offer solutions and negotiate changes to satisfy their needs.
  • Escalate client-related obstacles to progress or client non-performance to the appropriate  level governance forum for early resolution.
  • Set out clearly who is authorised to communicate with the client and on what basis, and control these communication channels effectively.
  • Ensure the contractual client understands their responsibility as the ‘one client voice’ when there are potentially multiple client organisations associated with the contract; beware of differing client opinions – they are threats to ultimate success.
  • Build client confidence by being professional, balanced, ethical, objective, and action-oriented; complete routine management, control and reporting tasks on time with rigour, reliable data, and effective risk management.
  • Deliver bad news and the intended corrective action simultaneously and in person wherever possible; never allow a client to hear about bad news from other parties. 
  • A healthy client relationship will strengthen further if you work together to find and negotiate pragmatic, acceptable solutions to problem situations.
  • Do not be frightened or intimidated by a client’s stance, position or tactics; be prepared to say ‘no’ in a professional way when it’s necessary to do so.
  • Clients are people just like you! Occasionally you may encounter unreasonable, obstructive, disruptive, bullying or destructive personalities who should be replaced; escalate to senior levels – remember, the client will do the same if you are the problem.
  • Formal dispute situations must always use the dispute processes embodied in the contract.
  • Test client satisfaction using a measurable process at the start of the contract, frequently through its execution, and at the end of the contract; evaluate the results and act to improve adverse indicators.
  • Listen for other business opportunities and facilitate their development where it is relevant to do so.
  • Remain ethical at all times; remember the saying ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch’  – always remain within your enterprises policies and ethical boundaries when offering or receiving gifts or incentives.
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