Ensuring Perfect Deliverable Documents Every Time

Posted by Brad Egeland

This sounds easy and in reality it should be.  But in reality it isn’t.  Just as you would think you would never ever send an email without the attachment that is referenced or without any misspellings or omitted words, you still do, right?  The last time you sent the customer an important email without the referenced document attached you swore it would be the last time, but it won’t be.  Truly, I’d like to develop and app that pops up and says, “Are you sure?” after you hit the send key giving you one more time to proof that important email.  I’m not even addressing the situation where you send it to the wrong person – those can be show stoppers and career enders.

We would like to think that we would never ever deliver anything less than 100% perfect to the customer.  Every design document and project plan is perfect every time with all the “I’s” dotted and all the “T’s” crossed.  No misspellings.  No left out words.  No “it’s” when it should be “its.”  No “they’re” when it should be “their.” And worst of all, no “????” when you meant to go back and put in real numbers.  Is this all starting to sound too familiar?  Is it starting to hurt a bit?  Are you starting to squirm because it’s happened to you?

I’m passionate about this for two big reasons…

#1 – I believe in errorless output

I truly believe that delivering errorless output is something that should be near and dear to the heart of the project manager and everyone on the project team.  We should want to give our best to the client and keep them expecting that best throughout the engagement by having them repeatedly see high quality output.

#2 – It happened to me

Yes, it happened to me.  Wrapped up in moving forward on a project that we were experiencing issues on, I allowed myself to deliver a functional design document to the customer without not only proofing it myself but not having my business analyst verify it was perfect.  Well, he said it was, but it wasn’t.  Worse, I had not one but TWO business analysts on that project and we still screwed it up.  And we didn’t deliver an error-filled document just once.  No, worse than that…we delivered an error-filled functional design document THREE times.  I didn’t even learn my lesson after the first bad delivery!

What I learned the hard way is that what seems like a no big deal to me might be a very big deal to the customer.  The see easily spotted errors – not lots, but any is too many – in a deliverable document that they are paying for and they immediately wonder what other work will be shoddy.  And rightly so.  Needless to say, I took a beating from my customer for those first two deliveries of the document – and I should have.  My whole team did.

From that point on, every deliverable in document form received two peer reviews for everything….content, spelling, formatting, appearance.  Everything you can imagine.  I’m a firm believer – especially now – that peer reviews are worth every penny and the project manager must ensure that his team members aren’t ‘going through the motions’ on the reviews by participating in the review itself and giving the document his own personal signoff.  The customer deserves to see quality output that isn’t full of easily fixable errors.  And they have every right to lose confidence in a delivery team that can’t get the content right in a paid deliverable document, even if it breaks down to simple format issues.

In all fairness, I will state that the second problematic delivery of that functional design document was entirely about the way the pdf version of the document was created from the Word document and the way it was formatted.  Still, we should have caught it before it went to the customer and it was perfect on the third delivery…finally.

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