Managing the expectations is important on all projects. It's
the major purpose of your status report, but managing expectations requires
more than just sending out an accurate status report on a monthly basis.
expectations are managed well, all parties feel good about the outcome of the
project, even if there are a number of challenges. On the other hand, when
expectations are not managed well, even a project that comes in on time and on
budget might be seen as less than successful.
Managing expectations means keeping the client informed as
to how the project is going and the changes, if any, that are made to previous
agreements and understandings. Most times when there is major friction between the
client and the project manager, it's not the underlying problem that's the
cause. It's because the client was surprised. The following process helps set
an overall framework for successfully managing expectations.
1. Establish an agreement
This is probably the most overlooked, yet obvious piece of
the process. It is impossible to manage client expectations if you don't have
some agreement to begin with. There are two major places to gain the original
agreement: Project Definition (Charter) and business requirements. The Project
Definition sets expectations at a high-level and the business requirements help
set expectations at a more detailed level.
2. Manage change
Once an agreement has been reached, the project team and the
client will proceed within those expectations. It should make sense that any
changes to the agreement should be documented and agreed to by the client and
the project team. If the client makes changes to requirements or other aspects
of the agreement, scope change management should be invoked. If the project
team can't deliver against expectations, then risk management and issues
management should be utilized.
3. Communicate proactively
The project manager should communicate proactively through
the status reporting process or as part of a broader Communications Plan--especially
if there are any problems meeting the expectations. The main motivation is to
4. Deliver against the expectations
Again, this may seem obvious. However, once an agreement has
been put into place, make sure that you deliver as expected. Many project
managers establish an agreement and then they don't deliver successfully. And
even worse, in many cases, the project manager doesn't communicate proactively.
This results in the client being surprised, which can cause all sorts of
5. Reset expectations if necessary
If you determine that the original agreement can't be
satisfied, you should identify the causes, propose alternatives, and reach a
new agreement. This may be painful, but it's your only alternative if you can't
meet the original expectations.
6. Complete the agreement
Review the completed work with the client to ensure that the
terms of the agreement have been fully met. If not, negotiate what will be
required to fulfill the agreement.
This process may seem simple, but how many of you manage
expectations this way? Yet, this simple process can save you a lot of
aggravation and can result in your making sure that you meet your client’s
expectations for your project.