By now, we’ve all heard about the importance of collaboration on project teams. Organizations that haven’t implemented an online collaboration solution are already falling behind competitors who have taken advantage of the increased engagement and efficiency that collaboration provides.
As helpful as internal collaboration can be, though, it’s not a complete answer. Businesses that want to establish themselves as leaders in their industries should also look for opportunities to collaborate with their customers. Customer collaboration is an increasingly popular trend and is helping many organizations take the next step in building relationships and managing projects.
Collaboration in Many Forms
Customer collaboration can take many forms. For some companies, it means making a deeper commitment to the online interactions they use to engage with customers via social media. Rather than using Facebook, Twitter and other services simply to make announcements and respond to customer service inquiries, organizations are beginning to solicit feedback and input on new products and services. Harnessing the power of social media as a research tool in this way can give a company new insights into its customers’ preferences, and give it a head start on marketing campaigns while its products are still in the development phase.
In addition to this form of broad-based customer collaboration, many enterprise organizations are also looking for ways to increase collaboration in the project management process. Companies that sell to other businesses, rather than directly to consumers, have found that collaboration tools are invaluable for managing customer expectations in professional services and other industries.
Here’s a look at some of the ways online collaboration with customers can streamline project management and improve project outcomes:
- Cut down on meetings: Scheduling project meetings can be a real challenge, especially when a service provider’s project team and the customer’s project team are geographically dispersed. Even phone conferences can be hard to coordinate and often have to be cancelled or rescheduled when urgent issues arise. Collaborative project management solutions like Clarizen make it easy for customers to get project updates in real time, reducing the need for inconvenient and potentially disruptive status meetings.
Eliminate surprises: Nothing can derail a project faster than an unexpected announcement about a delay or overrun. In addition to the challenges posed by the obstacle itself, customers often lose trust in their service providers and wonder why they weren’t given an earlier warning. When customers are directly involved in ongoing project conversations, they stay informed about task progress, budget performance and resource allocations, helping project teams work through challenges more quickly and productively.
- Avoid change orders: It’s easy for details to get missed or miscommunicated in a scope document. Often, the result is a costly change order in the middle of the project. When customers remain actively engaged throughout the project planning and execution process, however, they are able to identify potential problems or omissions much earlier, helping the project team focus their efforts in the right direction.