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Essential Features To Look For In Project Management Systems For Combining Virtual Assistant Client Areas

Michelle Dale - Monday, March 14, 2011

If you have a virtual assistance business, which you intend to expand, in terms of clients and team members, then it’s really important to have a robust project management system which can also team up as a client area, because when managing large numbers of clients and team members you need to be ultra-organised and be prepared for lots of various eventualities, so here is a run down of what I consider essential to my clients’ area:

I use Active Collab, however many of the features in Active Collab are available in other systems, so it’s about seeking out what is right for you and your virtual assistant company.

1. Discussion Area or Forum

It’s essential to have a discussion area or forum, so you can create individual discussions for each project you are working on, this area can also be used for delivering work, and letting a client know when their task or project has been completed or is ready for review. This is also a great space to keep records of any correspondence which came in from outside and was not posted directly onto the discussion, so for example, if a discussion is set up in the client area, and a client sends in information relating to that, in my support site for example, I will copy and paste the ticket ID and information onto the discussion so all records are kept in one place and can be easily referenced, as to how and when they came in.

If a client ever loses information, or instructions you have given them, you can quickly link back to the relevant post or comment in the discussion forum in their client area which could save you lots of time.

The other advantage of this, is that there is a complete history in writing as to what has gone on. Find a project management space than will send email notifications to assignees of the discussion so your updates are automatically sent to the client. Ideally, the comments on the discussions should allow you to attach files as well, so you can include audio, video, image files and document attachments.

2. Milestones

Milestones can be set up for larger tasks and projects such as website development and research projects. The milestone should allow you to get a birds eye view of the clients’ account and activity based on key assignments. This will allow you to easily track progress. Generally you won’t have a need to allow your client access to this area, as you should also have a discussion set up for collaboration with the client.

In the next section we discuss tickets. Tickets can be placed within milestones so that you can segment work appropriately and keep all the tasks organised.

3. Tickets

Tickets are major tasks which come under the milestone, breaking the project down into pieces to have a record of stages, with due dates, that will need to be processed and worked through in order to complete the milestone. It’s important that comments can be added to the ticket, with file attachments if required, so whenever anyone has taken any action on the ticket, it can be documented for the whole team to see. This is really important as it keeps everyone involved in that ticket in the loop.

Along with a comment section, it’s also important to have 3 further features to your tickets, the first is the ability to add multiple team members onto the ticket, so everyone involved can receive notifications and updates by email, ideally.

The second is to have a privacy function so that you can set this area of your project management space as private from the client. At the end of the day, the client should be updated and aware of what is going on, and you can update them periodically via the discussion, but there is no reason for the client to be updated on every detail of how the task is progressing, and that should be kept in-house, between you and the team, the client should be paying you to get the job done, and not for a running commentary of how you are doing it.

The third and final feature you may want to consider is time tracking on tickets, if you need to charge hours back to the client, or your team work to an hourly rate rather than a monthly payment, then you need to track and monitor time for accounting and invoicing purposes, not only that, I think it’s good to understand how long things take to process in your business. Clients may ask about timescales to completion so they can manage schedules in their own business, and being able to look back and reference these things from previous projects and assignments can make life a little easier when quoting deadlines.

When working in a project management space it’s a good idea to provide clients with some sort of written instructions with screenshots, or a video on what they can expect and how they can work with you.

There are many other features which are useful for a variety of different things, and I love to make full use of those wherever I can. But if you are looking for a great foundation for a client area, combining this with a team project management space is by far the fastest way to process work and monitor everything, just make sure you find one which has these 3 basic features along with the various different options that can come as part of them such as file attachments, comment sections and privacy settings.

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Hi I'm Michelle, an entrepreneur specialising in virtual assistance, a digital and real world nomad, and a down-to-earth mother of three.

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