The Importance of Setting Client Expectations (in Agile)

You start your work day as usual. Pour yourself some freshly-brewed coffee, sit down at your computer, and check your emails. You see a new one from your most recent client, about the last sprint you just completed for them. You open it and your eyes are greeted by the following:

“Great job on the software update, but I have to admit – we expected more features to be completed this sprint…”

Oh oh. You forgot to mention there were a couple of small features your team wouldn’t be able to finish in time. Surely they must’ve known there wasn’t enough time left in the sprint for everything to be done. Right?

Wrong. This is just one of the examples that can happen if you miss out on the important step of setting client expectations. It starts from the very beginning of a project, continues throughout each sprint, and ends with what they can expect from the final product. You want the end of every sprint to be successful, but that will never happen if your client feels they were oversold on your deliverables.

A good rule of thumb is to always recap a client conversation while addressing any outlying tasks you need to address. – Kyle Marino, PM Guru.

From the very kick-off meeting you should state very clearly what you’ll be delivering and how you’ll be delivering it, taking into account their time and budget restraints. Then, after the meeting is done you should send them a quick email with a recap so you can be absolutely sure that you are both on the same page. This is a good practice to have after every kind of meeting, including sprint planning and sprint reviews. Not only will expectations be clear and in the open, but you’ll avoid scope creep since there is a record of what the client agreed to.

One of the best things about Scrum or Agile is the level of transparency with the client during every step of the way. This ensures your team doesn’t lock themselves away and emerge 6 months later with the complete opposite of what the client was expecting. You keep an open line of communication at all time, and allow the project to grow based on the most important client needs. So keep your client in the loop and you’ll never have to read one of those dreaded emails again.