Project Collaboration vs. Project Management - What's the Difference?
How do you know if your business has the right project collaboration & client management software in place? The answer to that question depends on how you view your organization's projects and how you intend to manage them. Today, we'll take a look at the different ways businesses manage their projects and what types of tools are needed for these approaches based on the project management methodology adopted by the company in question.
What things contribute to a successful project?
The success of a project hinges on many factors, but one thing in particular that is often overlooked is clear communication. Here are a few tips for making sure you maintain open lines of communication with your clients throughout a project:
- Establish transparent expectations - It's important to be honest and straightforward with your clients, especially when things get hectic. Make sure they know exactly what to expect from you and your team before moving forward so there are no surprises.
- Maintain frequent contact - You may need to check in every day or week depending on how involved your client is in each step of their project. Having set times for contact helps make sure that everyone knows what's going on even when it feels like you aren't getting anywhere fast.
- Keep an updated schedule - It can be easy to lose track of time during projects because every hour seems busy. To avoid problems down the road, always have an up-to-date schedule available that shows where you stand and gives your client regular updates on project status.
- Avoid vagueness - Clients are more likely to understand and follow through with requests if they're very specific about what needs to happen next. If a project has multiple steps or milestones, make sure that all parties involved understand exactly what needs to happen at each juncture.
- Use project management software to organize everything - A tool like Trackfront keeps projects organized by keeping both teams and clients informed about progress, deadlines, and changes in direction along with everything else that comes up over the course of a project.
- Communicate delays ahead of time - Issues will inevitably come up during any given project, but those issues should never catch your client off guard unless otherwise agreed upon beforehand (and don't forget to inform them why). Any setbacks should be communicated as early as possible so both sides can determine whether changes need to be made or if work can continue as planned.
- Explain why decisions were made - When you take on a project, whether independently or within an organization, it's essential to explain your rationale behind any major decisions and document those decisions so there's no confusion later on. Communication goes beyond direct interactions between two people; it includes documentation of your plans and priorities as well so that others--clients included--are familiar with current objectives and project goals.
- Get feedback from your team - Asking other people who are working on projects with you for input can help alleviate miscommunication related to differing interpretations of requests or ideas among project members.
- Anticipate questions - In addition to clarifying requirements and expectations, you'll also want to anticipate questions that might arise and draft answers that serve as clear explanations of potential concerns.
Keep records of everything - It's a lot easier to remember detailed conversations, emails, and meetings when you've got thorough records of what occurred and what was discussed. Project management software makes it easy to record discussions, assignments, tasks, files--everything you might need access to later on down the line.
Are there differences when it comes to projects internal to your organization versus projects that are for clients?
Absolutely. Regardless of whether a project is being performed for a client or internal stakeholders, each member of your team plays a role in collaborating with other team members. However, when it comes to working on projects that are performed for clients, it's necessary to consider what happens outside of your organization as well. No matter how much you may want to take over your client's project management (i.e., micro-manage), taking a step back and letting your client manage their own stakeholders could cause more problems than it solves in the long run. In other words, trying to control every aspect of a project from start to finish isn't always realistic--or even possible! One way to avoid these types of issues is by establishing clear project collaboration protocols ahead of time so that both parties understand their respective roles. For example, if your focus as a project manager primarily revolves around ensuring deliverables are met within deadlines, then it would make sense to delegate responsibility for project planning and budgeting to others. Even if you're also responsible for providing resources, scheduling meetings, managing communication channels, etc., there should be one person who has overall responsibility on behalf of all stakeholders involved. This means those other responsibilities will fall under your purview instead of remaining solely client-focused. If that doesn't happen, there's no telling what kinds of miscommunications can occur along the way, which might increase pressure levels among everyone involved while creating additional challenges to bringing a project home successfully. Avoid messy situations like these by making sure you and your client have an understanding about each party's individual responsibilities before moving forward into uncharted territory. Doing so sets proper expectations right off the bat and lets everyone know exactly where they stand at any given point during a project lifecycle.
How do these definitions affect the way we manage resources and select tools to help us manage these resources?
Both project management and project collaboration are for managing people, teams, internal resources, external resources as well as clients. The main difference is that project management focuses on internal resources of your organization while project collaboration typically focuses on client-facing activities of an organization. Both require communication among various stakeholders. Based on these definitions, how does it affect your team's methodology for managing any kind of resources? Which types of tools should you adopt based on your stakeholder-management needs? For example, if you have to manage various clients who need different pieces of information, which tool should help you create specific documents based on their requirements? And what about collaborating with your internal teams to maintain transparency and foster feedback--which tool or set of tools will make communicating with other departments easier? How can these differences impact what you want out of a single platform? In short: Different projects mean different approaches--and different goals can change everything. Given that project management and project collaboration often focus on different aspects of business operations, it makes sense that they might use different tools to achieve results. When you have clients relying on specific deliverables--like invoices, reports, even budgets--you might not want those things tied up in overly complicated software designed for internal operations. This means choosing a simpler solution would better suit your needs. On the other hand, more complicated solutions may be better suited to handle numerous tasks at once (e.g., time tracking) in addition to letting users access all their important data from one location. Those additional features can be useful, but come with tradeoffs. It depends on your specific situation. So before signing up for a new project management platform, ask yourself: Is my goal to provide great client services...or build better internal processes? What matters most when deciding between tools? Once you know where a given feature falls into place and why it matters, then you'll understand which features are necessary and which ones aren't quite so helpful when it comes down to actually using them day-to-day.
As far as tools go, communicating internally versus externally is a whole different ballgame
With intra-organizational projects, most companies use some form of project management software to keep track of tasks/to do lists/meetings/calls/etc. along with tools that provide additional functionality such as expense tracking (Xero), email marketing automation (MailChimp), document sharing (Dropbox) and live chat support teams (Zendesk). By doing so, communication is extremely streamlined across departments. It allows work done by Marketing teams to directly inform sales staff members in real time, for example. Salespeople can see what stage each prospect or client is at, eliminating unnecessary back-and-forth emails asking where are we at? and cutting down on redundant steps from multiple departments within an organization.
What is project management?
When you plan, organize, and lead a project to completion while achieving expected outcomes, you're practicing project management. At its core, project management involves managing time and money--ensuring that projects are completed on time and on budget. However, it's much more than that. A common misconception is that a project manager is just another word for coordinator. And although there are some similarities between coordinators or producers and a good project manager, there are several key differences in responsibilities as well as required skills. There may be times when both roles need to be filled by one person--which can sometimes result in issues when some of those skills overlap. A successful project manager needs strong interpersonal skills and communication abilities. When collaborating with clients, they must ensure everyone understands their role and how important each individual contribution is to overall success of a task or goal. Managing client expectations, encouraging collaboration among team members across cultures (when applicable), developing timelines and establishing objectives also fall under a project manager's responsibility. In short: They help keep projects organized!
What is project collaboration?
The planning, organizing, and carrying out of a group activity toward accomplishing certain goals and producing certain results, typically within an agreed time frame. This term often appears in business organization charts below project management and above project execution. It involves managing multiple assignments while keeping them all running smoothly. It requires comprehensive follow-through on tasks that involve more than one person--each one being responsible for specific activities within his or her area of expertise but working together toward a shared goal. Compared to project management, project collaboration focuses more heavily on operational procedures and coordination among staff from different units. While these two areas of focus aren't at odds with each other, neither do they necessarily rely on one another--so having someone assigned specifically to project collaboration who doesn't understand exactly what a project manager does could cause confusion (and even sabotage!) if he or she makes too many assumptions about whose job it is to manage which parts of a given project. Communication should be clear so all parties involved know exactly what he/she should expect from whom; otherwise, there's no way to know if something went wrong until after damage has been done. Now, how does my software fit into all of that? One piece: Microsoft Project. No matter what size your company is, it's likely that there have been times when you had more work come in than was originally anticipated and not enough people available to complete everything right away. That means someone has to prioritize tasks and decide which items get done first based on their importance level--and then stick to those decisions.
What is project collaboration, and how is it different than project management?
The terms project management and project collaboration are often used interchangeably in business circles, but there are some important differences. The distinction between project management (which focuses on monitoring a project's progress) and project collaboration (which emphasizes information-sharing among all stakeholders) can be subtle but is extremely important when choosing collaborative software for your projects. For example, one tool might provide more insight into your project's status, while another may make it easier to share files with team members. What makes these tools truly effective is that they help you achieve both goals--that is, they give you an overview of your whole project while also providing real-time updates to everyone involved. A good online project collaboration tool helps bring teams together by highlighting individual contributions and helping them collaborate on tasks; users will know exactly where their peers stand, so no one falls behind. This type of visibility drives accountability across teams and keeps projects moving forward. Another benefit of online tools is that they offer easy file sharing capabilities: even if a group member doesn't have access to certain files or documents, he or she can still view them in his or her web browser or mobile device.
What strategies and methodologies should be used for successful project management?
There is a difference between project management, client management, and project collaboration. Each one of these is important for success within an organization; understanding these differences can help you determine what strategies to adopt for different types of projects. For example, if you're running a strategic consulting project that will change how your organization works, it might be important to keep it separate from other internal projects. However, if you're providing infrastructure support with external vendors working on-site at your location, keeping everything strictly organized might not be practical. As always, adapting strategy to fit each unique situation is key to maximizing efficiency; do what makes sense in each case. And remember--the very definition of best practices is something done because it works most of the time, not all of the time. If it doesn't work most of the time but has no downsides (i.e., budget), then by all means stick with best practices; if there are costs involved or unforeseen consequences to adopting best practices, think twice before going with that's just how we've always done things. Always consider options and choose what's right for your organization. In short: Use best practices as guidelines but don't treat them as rules set in stone; assess every scenario individually based on its own merits before deciding which approach--if any--is right for you.
What are some ways to improve collaboration with internal team members on a project?
Email and daily meetings are both common ways of staying in touch with your team, but they may not always be enough. Make sure you're providing opportunities for your employees to connect on a personal level. Invite them out for lunch or take them out to dinner after work. These casual interactions will help strengthen connections within your team, ultimately leading to a more cohesive experience while working on projects together.
What are some ways to improve collaboration with external partners on a project?
At its core, collaboration is about building relationships. Don't underestimate how important it is to foster those relationships at an early stage--you want your partners to feel comfortable asking questions and making suggestions throughout your project's lifecycle. Start by aligning expectations up front. Be transparent about what you hope each partner will contribute during every stage of a project so everyone knows what's expected from them. This way, you won't have any surprises down the road when it comes time to hand off completed components of a project. It also pays to be mindful of cultural differences when collaborating with international stakeholders. If there are major language barriers between yourself and your partners, consider hiring someone who can act as an interpreter during crucial face-to-face conversations.
How do I collaborate with my clients on my marketing projects?
Some clients prefer written communication over phone calls or email; others may prefer phone calls or email over written communication (or vice versa). The key is knowing how you can accommodate each client's preferences while maintaining good quality control over their content. We use Slack channels as an alternative channel that gives us better real-time clarity than email threads can provide.
How does collaboration with clients during a project differ from collaboration with internal team members?
It's easy to assume that when it comes to project management, everything is more or less equal across internal team members, clients, and vendors. But collaboration within your team might not be what you think it is. Collaborating with a client means providing them with up-to-date information regarding your project so they can make decisions based on accurate data. For example, you need to give them a specific time frame for completion. They then relay that information to their employees and eventually back to you with questions or concerns. On the other hand, collaborating with an internal team member usually has to do with making sure everyone stays updated on projects as they relate directly to their department. Notifying someone of changes that affect his/her area of work helps maintain efficiency throughout all departments in your organization. If no one knows what's going on, tasks get muddled and are completed inefficiently--or not at all. In short, collaboration between clients works toward achieving a final outcome whereas collaboration between team members often focuses on day-to-day activities. This also affects communication techniques used with both sets of stakeholders; for example, presenting findings to an external client requires formal language but communicating status updates internally requires informal language. This might seem like common sense but it's something many business owners overlook when implementing professional tools during their projects. Getting into good habits early will help you streamline future collaborations during your professional career!
Should you be using one software platform for both project management and project collaboration?
How much do you want to grow your company? If you're trying to build a large-scale business, then there's a good chance you'll need software that supports a wide range of project types--not just those for internal teams. For example, many businesses have separate systems in place for managing projects within their organization (e.g., internal or divisional teams) and projects with clients/vendors/partners outside of their organization (e.g., external clients, vendors, etc.). And while some businesses use one system for both types of projects, others rely on two different platforms--one for project management and another for project collaboration. Which option is best? Ultimately, it depends on what your current needs are and how you envision scaling over time.
Depending on where your priorities lie right now, here are four key questions to ask yourself before choosing a platform:
- Do I really need both? If you're just starting out and looking to manage basic internal operations, it may not make sense to implement software that also allows for collaboration with partners/clients at scale until you require such functionality.
- When does my project fall under each category? If most of your day-to-day activities involve working internally (managing resources internally), but occasionally include engaging external clients, vendors or partners who require varying levels of stakeholder communication throughout various phases of work, implementing separate platforms could be beneficial.
- Does integrating with third party applications help me achieve better results? Integrating project management and collaboration tools with other solutions via custom integrations can help streamline efficiency across various areas of your business (e.g., shipping services, accounting software, marketing automation software). It helps ensure that data is being updated simultaneously across multiple channels and doesn't get lost in translation due to an oversight or lag time between updates.
- Does my budget align with a higher cost solution? Many businesses opt for low-cost solutions because they don't see sufficient ROI after adopting high-cost options. Low cost doesn't always mean you won't reap benefits by using them - they'll just take longer to realize any tangible results.
How does the approach for both project management and project collaboration differ for internal versus external communications?
Though project collaboration tends to be more flexible and conversational in nature, both projects need formal processes for internal communications. For example, someone is going to be accountable for checking in on weekly project progress across teams, which means those people need regular status updates. And you'll want to make sure everyone knows their roles during meetings (e.g., who presents a part of a project update) because that affects what sorts of expectations there are for contributing to those presentations. It's best if all of these expectations are clearly communicated upfront so everyone can plan accordingly. Otherwise, team members will feel like they were left out in the cold or surprised by an expectation later on--and that's a surefire way to develop resentment or distrust toward one another. On a final note, while it might seem counterintuitive, consider using project management tools as your primary method of communication with your clients instead of email or other methods you might use internally. Setting clear boundaries helps minimize misunderstandings between your team and clients without sacrificing opportunities for informal feedback. And if conversations get stuck at any point along the line, formally scheduling those conversations within your business management software streamlines them without interrupting other working relationships or wasting anyone's time. If nothing else, having these discussions logged within a platform everyone is using makes it easy to see where work hasn't been completed at various points throughout projects rather than scrambling after work was submitted to find out where something's falling behind schedule.
Use your client management plan to outline what you need to do before, during, and after your project kickoff. The more thorough you are in detailing how you plan to manage your clients throughout your project management process, the easier it will be for everyone involved. Not only will they understand why they should trust you with their brand, but they'll feel more confident in their decision as well. Plus, it will give you a better understanding of any additional services you may want to incorporate in order to create a truly stellar experience for them.