Communication is an important aspect of any project, whether development or marketing. As we deal with development tasks on a regular basis, we know that communication is an important catalyst. It is not a new subject to discuss, but it is definitely one that teams need to be reminded about.

It is the job of everybody involved in the project to stay active on the communication channels that are chosen to communicate with the client about the project. More importantly, the project manager's and customer success manager's responsibility is to manage the messages/conversations happening between client and team and within the team.

It is normal for a complex multi-level project to have misunderstandings about goals and misconceptions about the project's actual concept. The project manager or the customer success manager needs to reduce those misconceptions and misunderstandings and ensure that accurate information is flowing among the team regarding the project in question.

Why is it Important to eradicate inaccurate information?

Misconceptions and misunderstandings may not just put a halt on your project but do the worse. The wrong or inaccurate information will lead to time spent developing wrong designs, features, and functionalities, which the project managers or the customer success managers have to correct later. So, you waste a lot of time there, your resources, there are more chances of missing your deadlines, and above that, clients start losing trust in your team and management skills. What happens next? The client might just end the project and give you a poor rating. And, poor ratings lead to fewer business opportunities later. See how a little misunderstanding in the starting phase can lead to a major catastrophe. That's why communication is important right from the beginning stage of project development.

Project Managers and Customer Success Managers have equal responsibility for building strong communication during a development project. One takes care of it heavily on the development team side, and the other takes care of it on the client-side.

What do Customer Success Managers do, and how are they different from Project Managers?

Project managers are leaned toward project planning, technical aspect, risk management, implementation of the IT systems, and task allocation. Customer Success Managers are leaned toward standard project management, delivering value to the client makes sure that the company meets the goals of the client.

Computan's Customer Success Manager, Syed Asadullah, believes that Project Managers and Customer Success Managers are not the same. He says 'a Project Manager is more focused on the project life cycle, whereas the Customer Success Manager is with the client from the onboarding phase till the time he is in the database. CSMs are responsible for building a rapport with the client. They make sure that nothing gets slipped from the cracks and cover the PM if he/she is not around. They act as a bridge between the client, developers, PM and sometimes Management.'

A Project Manager's role might end when a project is successfully completed and handed over to the client, while the Customer Success Manager stays with the client to increase engagement and revenue from the customer.

  • CSMs are part Project Managers because they stay with the development team during the project.
  • CSMs are part support team because they stay with the client even after the successful delivery of the project.
  • CSMs are part sales team because they build value-based relations with the client in the hope of generating more revenue from the client. 

What important role do Customer Success Managers play in development projects?

Another one of Comptuan's CSM, Lisa Johnson, answers this beautifully in one line 'A CSM ensures smooth communication between the development team and the client.' And, because of their role, the project managers can focus their energy on the core project management tasks. It's a win-win for the client, the company, the CSMs, and the PMs.

CSMs and PMs work hand-in-hand with each other to eliminate misunderstandings and misconceptions regarding the project. And, we all know how important it is.

Suppose anything is missed by the PMs; the CSMs jump in to fill the PM with the right info. And, if the CSM wants some technical info to support their conversation with the client, then PMs jump in to support the CSM. It's a collaborative effort toward the goal of the company and the goal of the said project.

What typical weak areas do CSMs address?

Developers are good at coding for long hours and building products, but some of them might miss out on skills of correctly understanding the requirements, technical aspects, future scope, among other things involved in a project. For all such things, we have Project Managers and Customer Success Managers such as Lisa, who believes that 'the main weaknesses among developers include ensuring technical information is clearly conveyed.'

Any communication is said to be a success if the message receiver understands the exact message delivered by the message giver. Counter questioning might be there to clear doubts in any message, but those questions must take the conversion to a better understanding. This little but so important part of project management is nailed by talented PMs and CSMs, be it because of their skills or experience.

Skilled developers and great communicators are the ingredients of an effective project development team recipe.

What tools do Customer Success Managers use to do their job? Be they technologies or skills.

Our very own CSMs, Lisa and Syed, both agree that a CSM has generic IT skills, interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, conflict management skills, understanding of the development process, and tools that developers use for web and application development all kinds of project management tools.

Basically, a CSM has the skills that a good communicator or a mediator possesses. For development-specific departments, they must have basic knowledge of web development aspects. If it were a digital marketing or inbound marketing specific CSM, then she/she would have basic knowledge of SEO, SMM, SMO, among other digital marketing aspects.

How do PMs and Customer Success Managers work together?

'I have got your back.' This is what Syed Asadullah, Computan's CSM, would say to a PM if the PM is on leave or not available. Syed says, 'CSM covers the PM in case he/she is not around or busy with some other task. Both work hand-in-hand and support each other to create value for the customer. Sometimes, CSM directly talks to the developer to have the task done, but it is mainly the PM who deals with the developer.'

So, we can say that in some scenarios, a CSM can replace a PM, but not completely. A CSM can act as an interim PM.

Do you agree or beg to differ with me? Let's communicate well in the comment section. ;)