Project Management v's Difficult Client! Help!
Apr 18, 2011
Hi everyone - this one's quite an essay, but I'd really appreciate the advice!
I need some help with working out how to manage a large course project.
This is the history and set up of the project development;
I work for a 'company' (on a fixed term contract) - the company looks after the 'client' and project manages the project and I develop the courses on behalf of that company for the client, liaising with the company on timescales etc....
Existing client wants an Induction course, consisting of 12 modules and they want it interactive, not linear.
My company initially agreed this project in a meeting with the client back in November last year. Basically the client showed them a course they liked and the company said 'yeah we can do that, no problem!" "You want flash? We can sort that for you!" BTW.....I'm not a flash developer, neither do they employ any flash developers....
So anyway, I have a meeting with my company, then we and the client have a meeting to set out the requirements. I express my concern to the company after seeing the course the client had used as an example and mention the 'flash' elements - the company says, "We can use flash components, no problem!" I reluctantly say 'ok', also confirming that the course would need to be bespoke rather than created with Articulate interactions, because the client had seen a course I'd done using articulate interactions and didn't like the look of it! (So I was thinking along the lines of branching scenarios and hyper linking). I also confirm that I cannot do the narration which is required because for the size of the course it would need a professional narrator in order to get the quality throughout.
So, I create a couple of designs, the client sends their feedback and then I move on to storyboard the 1st module out of 12. The SB is sent to them and they send feedback and then the amendments are made on that module. Then I receive a bunch of amendments which totally restructures the module. But I get on and start to come up with lots of ideas on how to display the content and things begin to move quite swiftly - however the module has changed and therefore the client needs to see the re-structure and in some areas, re-design. But my company doesn't send this to the client until I have completed module two.
So in the end, the client is sent module one and two together; and they're not happy with the course so far.
So that's the history in a nut shell.
My question is this.......what is the most constructive way to manage a project of this size? I have no doubt that the client is also being difficult, because they don't actually know what they want until they see it - and of course this is totally unrealistic, the project could go on forever!!!
How do you create a bespoke course, with branching scenarios that are put there to engage the user, but keep to the same design in order to be confident that your client will like it? Apart from sending the client a screen shot every time you create a slide, how can we display our design proposals without developing the actual scenario/slide only for the client to say "I don't like it"?
Finally, I am actually quite happy with the designs I have put to most of the content so far. I think it uses the content well and will engage the user much better than linear style. Although the 'flash' components are a thorn in the project's side - I hate them, but the client has been promised them by the company!
[NOTE: Publishing the slides as a storyboard is also a problem in this project because the imported 'flash' components only display the 'flash object' holding image.]
We've got to the point where we don't know what the client wants anymore....it's becoming a nightmare!!!
It is the first time we’ve dealt with something on this scale. I have told the company that for future clients we need to set out our boundaries immediately – give them a couple of demos and say ‘this is what we do’ - if they want something different then, we’re not the right company for them.
Does anyone else work like this? Do you agree?
Also I wonder if it would be better to ask clients to approach us once their content has been drafted? I.e. we don’t take on or even price a project until we can view the content. This surely then prevents incorrect time scales and pricing.
Again, is this the way to do things?