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HRL: What is your status?

One of the aspects I hate about project management is updating clients on the teams status on a project. My main issue is that taking all the work that has been completed by you or a team, translating it into digestible English (usually for non-techies) and summarizing and presenting it takes time. The time that can be spent doing more work. Unless your client is in the trenches with you day by day, communicating that you created X number of database tables and successfully connected to the S3 bucket and can upload images that are now managed by a content delivery network so the images render 5 times faster than it would have previously is hard, most times you cannot explain this because all the things I listed earlier are all plumbing for your application. No one cares about the plumbing, they just don't want to see the toilet overflow when they flush. This is especially hard to communicate its value when you are working remotely from your client. That being said, producing status reports is critical to the health of your project and so I am working to be better at doing this. From experience, I have found giving clients weekly updates on their projects is the sweet spot for where I get to get as much work done without them freaking out and thinking I have disappeared. So below I have listed three ways I give clients updates.

Weekly Demo Call (1- 2 hours):
This has proved to be the most effective way to communicate the work that has been completed the previous week. Similar to my previous post about deploying first, as soon as development starts on this project, the code is deployed to a server that the client can access throughout the entirety of the project. Once a week I upload an update to the server and get on a call with the client. We discuss what has changed and I do a walkthrough where we share screens and instead of me showing them how it works, I make them do the clicking while I verbally talk them through it. You get instant feedback on the work and can iterate quickly and they are they are pretty satisfied interacting with the application.

Video Demo (2 - 3 hours):
This status report is usually used when I have a client that is very busy and I cannot get to commit to a set time every week. This usually entails using a screen recorder, creating a demo video of how the app works and what has changed since the previous week. After this has been recorded I usually throw it into iMovie and do a voice over walking through the app and slicing and dicing it and then upload it to youtube as an unlisted video and then send the secret link to the client.

Email Update (30 mins - 1 hour):
This is actually the hardest one to get right. Because there are usually no visuals and so you have to make the updates as simple as possible to understand and also make it detailed. using bullet points and ensuring you do not use tech jargon and make it as simple to understand as possible. I have also noticed that mixing this style of status-update with any of the other two above is best or producing a PDF to attach to the email with more statistics/details. This style of update works best for the most hands-off clients, the ones that basically tell you to run with the project and just want to hear its finished. An email a week makes them feel like something is happening.