Client access rights in project management softwareEvery project either small or big has its stakeholders. The way the communication between them is done can keep relations on a happy note or can put some hurdle between them. The second situation might influence both the current project and the future ones in a negative way and should be avoided.

Examples of project stakeholders include the clients, the user group, the project manager, the development team, the testers etc. practically anyone who has an interest in the project within or outside an organization. It is obvious that either part has a well established procedure or process when it comes to managing a project. But are the processes from the two sides compatible and if yes at what degree? If everyone is working using the same project management methodology or the same software solution then all it is fine. The problems start if this is not the case…

What project management solution side to choose?

There are three possible solutions that can be chosen:

  • each part uses its own solution
  • everyone is using the clients solution
  • or everyone is using the management team’s solution

As early as possible in a new client relationship, the manager needs to ask his client how he usually works. This is a very important factor in deciding which project to undertake. It is necessary to know if the clients are comfortable with the system because many clients will expect the manager to work through their software. Bottom line is that an easy communication will also indicate an easier management over the project.

The worst option is for both parts to be tracking the project entirely separately through two different systems. This is a waste of time and effort. Of course the manager can not afford all the time to refuse a project just because of this reason but this should not be kept out of sight. However for small projects things are not that bad and the best option may very well be for the management team to handle everything on their side and then send out updates by email. But for bigger projects email may not be an option.

Working with the clients solution will require to learn an entirely new piece of software and this can take a lot of time. But depending on the outcomes and the advantages of managing the project, working through someone else’s system can be a well accepted solution.

However the management team can not learn a new PM system for each project. The right decision is to find a complete solution that can satisfy both parties. If a client uses a spreadsheet system to manage their projects, another uses PM tool A and another PM tool B then the manager should use a project management solution capable of exporting data to all those formats so that it can be then sent to the clients. Another possibility would be for the client to use the same product. Some of the more popular project management tools these days offer you the option to create user accounts with different roles and limited access rights.

User profiles correspond to department membership in the company or roles played by business partners in the organization.­ The most important user profiles defined in any project management system are:

  • employees – work staff of the internal company
  • customers – external users who need to know the status of the project
  • freelancers – third parties that are employed on a temporary or project basis
  • managers – the guys responsible for the project success

Despite the temptation to add clients to the system, it’s worth asking whether your clients will ever use your project management software… Supposing that they will use it a decision must be made: what access right should they have? Viewing access would not mess up your data but a careful attention must be given to what data will become accessible. Clients must not see each others information. Editing possibility should be treated with care as a wrong change might badly influence the project plan and result.

Bottom line is that if a project managers needs to communicate with its clients then he should use a robust project management software that is capable of handling roles and access rights. Further more the system must be easy to use and require minimum effort to learn how to use it. And last, the clients should have limited access within the system and preferable read only access to be able to see reports and statistics on the status of the project.