How to Manage a Client That Causes Project Delay

January 31, 2024


Project Delay

It’s easy to jump all over your project team if they are running behind schedule. But, what do you do when the delay is caused by a client? Clients are not quite as forgiving, so need to be managed differently. Learn what you can do to manage a delay caused by a client and still maintain a positive working relationship with them.
The bindery in a commercial print shop is a pretty neat place to see in operation.

Long conveyor belts and automated machinery is chugging along overhead. Paper is flying everywhere. Suction pumps are turning on and off. Stitching, gluing, cutting, trimming, and wrapping comes together in a crazy patchwork of rapid succession. Books, magazines and other printed material take shape in a matter of moments.
The bindery is also a terrible place to work. delayed project Not so much because of the working conditions, but that it’s at the end of the printing process. The bindery is the last department involved prior to customer delivery of the finished product. A print shop is driven by dates. A book is carefully scheduled to be released in conjunction with associated marketing events. If there’s a delay upstream in the printing process, guess who has to make up that time? Yep, the bindery.

For example, let’s say a magazine’s delivery date is the 1st of every month. It is discovered that a wrong date or price was included in the magazine and that section has to be reprinted. The 1st of the month is still going to be the 1st of the month and that magazine still needs to go out as scheduled. The bindery has to make up the slack. This means long days, late nights, and weekends in order to get the job done.

Many of our projects are like that. Unfortunately, some of the biggest delays are client deliverables. They may feel as if our company and project teams will pick up the slack for the delay they caused. How can you manage this type of attitude?
How to Manage a Client That Procrastinates
There are a number of things you can do to help a client move along, as long as you have a good working relationship. They must believe that you have their best interest at heart and want to get work done for their benefit. This will allow you to speak freely whenever you need to be a bit more firm in order to get them off the dime. The following are ways to manage client delay: 
Keep a Delay Chron
Missed dates add up one day at a time. It’s good to have a record of all the delays that occurred on the project in your back pocket. This is not something that you are going to pull out on a weekly basis. Ideally, you won’t need to reference this document at all. However, you will be glad you have documented the delays if things start to get squirrelly near the end of the project. The client may not understand why the project is two or three weeks late. They believe everything has gone along just fine.

However, in referencing the Chron you’ll quickly be able to point out that there was a three-day delay in waiting for approval. Or, that it took an entire week for their IT team to wrap up integration efforts. Perhaps there was also a day or two of pause while they debated which color they wanted to use.

You’ll lose track of these details if you try and keep them all in your head. You need a chron just to refresh your own memory. Plus, you should record any delays caused by your project team as well, so that you are fair and reasonable as to why there was a delay with the project. 
Document the Delays in E-Mail 
Anytime the client has gone past their delivery date when they were responsible for something, follow up with them. The best thing is a phone call to ask when they believe they’ll be able to get you the deliverable or approval. Then, follow-up with an email that summarizes the conversation. This will remove any question later as to whether or not they knew they were the cause of the delay. Be sure to include any effect this may have on the end date. 
Provide Reminders
If you still haven’t heard from the client or received what finger with a red ribbon around if you need to move forward follow-up. In other words, bug them. Don’t feel bad about reminding them.
I actually get a little incensed when I have to remind adults to do something they previously agreed to do. But the truth is we all need reminders. My accountant does it to me all the time. I tell him I’ll send him something right away, and I never send it. Within a week my phone is ringing and my inbox is filling up with emails from him. Do I get aggravated? A little. But, I also realize it’s for my own good and the only way to get him off my back is to send him what I agreed to send to him. 
Let Them Know It’s Not a 1:1 Schedule Slip
There may be an assumption on the part of a client that if they delay a week, the schedule will only be impacted a week. That’s erroneous thinking. Most companies have a backlog of work that needs the same resources. These resources can’t be on standby forever waiting until the client is ready to move forward. A slip of one week could end up adding weeks or months to a project depending on what work is in the queue. 
Make the Delay Very Visible on Status Reports
 Making the reason for the delay very visible on a status report is a great way to get someone’s attention. Ideally, status reports are sent not only to your direct contact at the client, but to others in the organization as well—your boss, their boss, and other executives. You’ll be amazed at how quickly something moves forward if it’s known that the reason for the delay will show up on a weekly report.

“Waiting two weeks for approval from Steve” has an amazing ability to get things unstuck. It may not even be Steve’s fault. As a matter of fact, it usually isn’t. Steve has to depend upon someone else or jump through hoops in his own company to get approval. Executives have the ability to make things happen quickly and will do so if something is prominently called out. 
Explain the Quality May Suffer
: QA is the bindery of software and web development. Software and web development projects have a Quality Assurance department or process at the end to ensure the software does what it’s supposed to do. This is the group that usually gets hammered at the tail end of a project if there are delays upstream. You can help your client appreciate the fact that if they still want their project delivered at the same time, QA is what usually suffers. It may be physically impossible to run the tests that need to be run in order to guarantee the highest quality. This could have the unfortunate consequence of delivering less than perfect software. 
This is one area where you really need to stand your ground as a project manager. The client may say that it’s fine to cut corners in this area, that they just need their project delivered quick and dirty to get it out the door. The problem with this reasoning is that the dirty last a whole longer than the quick and is ultimately a reflection on your company. This is one of those cases where you may force a delivery date delay using the delay chron you kept to justify your decision. 
Most clients are responsive and great to work with. Others may just need a slight push every now and then. They’ll appreciate your conscientiousness to keep them on track! You shouldn’t delay in trying ProductDossier’s Project Management Software  FREE Demo! This is the only Project Management Software on the market that allows you to track your actual, planned and baseline views, all at the same time. This means that you can tell at a glance whether the project is on track or behind and Manage it properly.

Gulit Upadhyay


This article was provided by Gulit Upadhyay, Sr. Digital Marketer at, a company dedicated to providing Solar and EPC project management software so that you can achieve business excellence.