Sharing Project Data With Customers: Letting Go of Your Fear, Saving Time and Building Trust

Ian Needs

Producing project status reports for clients and partners is a continual frustration for project-driven organisations. Discussions often arise around the best way to produce reports and share them with customers, both internal and external. Creating and emailing periodic reports has been the standard method, but there is a major pitfall to this approach: You’re creating overhead by taking the time to repackage project data for the client. And by the time you’ve created and sent off all the reports, the information is no longer relevant in the context of real-time reportage.

There is also the hazard of misreporting (if certain data is rekeyed, for example), which can create more confusion when immediacy and clarity are what is required to maintain stakeholder confidence during project execution.

The answer for all this is to let your customer or partner access relevant data directly within your project portfolio management (PPM) tool , giving them a real-time dashboard that lets them see project progress and challenges from select metrics.

If the idea of giving a customer direct access to your PPM system makes you apprehensive, you’re not alone. There are limits to how transparent we want to be. But if that shared information can be carefully selected, you’ve not only saved your team time in generating and sharing reports, you’ve suddenly created more credibility with your client and made them a more effective partner for project delivery. At the end of the day, everybody is on the project team, and the better the shared intelligence, the better the execution.

Can We Do That?

There are two things that hold organisations back from more fruitful partner/client collaboration through shared project data: force of habit (and a bit of fear) and ignorance about the solutions available and how they can enable an organisation to easily share select project information.

One of the most counterproductive mantras in a company’s culture is, “We have always done it this way.” Some of this is driven by lack of knowledge about how well tools can empower productive sharing. Nowadays it is quite simple to let partners or clients see real-time masters of project data, rather than out-of-date stuff from a report run the week before.

There are real costs to this time lag: your external or internal project partners might miss the chance to raise a valuable concern in the event of slippage against milestones. On the other side of the coin, they might be raising the alarm about something you’ve already addressed. An out-of-date picture of the process can create unnecessary anxiety and undercut confidence—a critical intangible in all your project relationships. Showing that you can share this information creates a stronger basis for collaboration and problem solving, even if it makes you feel a bit uneasy about taking the leap.

In the end, you’ll be sharing the same kind of information you would in a report, just with more real-time relevance and without the lag time of extracting, packaging and disseminating that information.

Giving your customer select access to project data doesn’t mean making them privy to every wrinkle in a 1000-line task plan. The goal is to succinctly apprise, not overwhelm. There are usually a handful of deliverable points that make sense to share: overall status against budget and schedule being foremost. These may include certain shared risks, so that both sides—remember, you’re all on the project team—can evaluate and address potential hazards to delivery in real time.

This way, you’re acting as a true partner and functioning as an extension of the client organisation—sharing their goals and their challenges. This creates partnerships that yield opportunities far beyond the single project.

Building the Power to Share into the Solution—Affordably

Once you’ve determined that it is quite easy to let your clients/partners safely access the relevant portions of the project, a second question often arises: “Won’t this cost us?”

Many solutions license by number of users; KeyedIn Projects approaches this in a different way, licensing through managed resources. This means you can have as many users as you need across your department, other departments and on the customer/partner side without having to worry about running afoul of your license agreement or incurring extra cost for additional seats.

Scared to share? More companies are embracing tools that let them accomplish just that—and saving valuable time spent on sharing reports while earning higher levels of trust with key clients.