Communication

The Directly Responsible Individual (DRI) is the primary point of communication with the client. On a large project, the DRI may be joined by a separate project manager to help manage logistics. In this case, both the DRI and the project manager should be included on communication. The two of them can decide how they wish to approach responses. Some communication may require joint responses, while in other cases, it makes more sense for whomever sees a given communication first to respond on behalf of the group.

Our standard communication guidelines require a response to any inbound client communication within 24 hours. Most DRIs prefer to respond more quickly to ensure that any issues are ironed out fast and the client knows they are being heard.

Client communication should be handled with a mixture of phone calls, emails, Basecamp communication, and sometimes client-specific communication platforms.

Every client should receive a weekly check-in email or Basecamp message every week from their DRI informing them of the high-level project status and how we are tracking against our budgets and timelines. On a large project/account, the DRI may delegate this responsibility to a PM.

Basecamp

Basecamp has a feature where clients can be added to projects. They can be added to specific resources and conversations within the project, so they don’t have to see everything. About half of our clients enjoy using Basecamp and half prefer more traditional communication methods. At the beginning of a project with a new client, tell them about Basecamp and ask their preference. They can always try it and stop if they don’t like it.

Client-specific platforms

Some clients prefer to communicate on platforms like Slack, Trello, or Jira. When they feel that it would be critical for their workflow to reach out to us on these platforms, we are happy to use them. However, we avoid signing up our full team for those services. The reason is that when multiple team members are on the client’s platform, it becomes harder to treat our internal tool (Basecamp) as the canonical source of truth for the status of the work. This means that anyone not up to speed on the client’s system is out of the loop. We can ensure timeliness and consistency of our work by having our DRI integrated with their system and translating communication or tasks between that and our own channels.

When we do this, it does incur additional project management cost, as our DRI has to shuttle between different systems throughout the work day. This is often worth it for clients, as it saves them time having to be in Basecamp or translating an email. As a DRI please make sure that you communicate to clients the impact of working with their system, but also that we are happy to adapt to whatever works best and easiest for them and their team.