I am now circling back around to write Part 3 of this Project Success Series. As I referenced in Part 1 of this series (“Project Success Series: Ensuring Revenue and Profitability on Your Project”) there are four main questions that your company CEO could ask you concerning whatever highly visible or mission critical project you are currently managing or just completed if you were to run into him in the hallway. And it is definitely important for your career to be ready to answer each of these questions and be able to back them up with proof, dates or statistics, if necessary. These questions are:
- Was the project on budget?
- Was the project on time?
- Was the customer satisfied?
- Did the project deliver a usable solution?
Part 1 dealt with the question concerning whether or not your project was on budget. In Part 2, dealt with keeping your project delivery schedule on track. Part 3 will deal with the concept of customer satisfaction. Keep in mind, anytime a highly visible customer is unsatisfied, the likelihood that they will contact your CEO directly has been exponentially increased…even if you think you have a solid communication line going with that customer. They can and will go over your head to get what they want and need if they feel you aren’t providing it.
Therefore, it is in our best interest and our company’s best interest that we keep this high profile and often needy customers satisfied.
Always Keep the Customer in the Loop
Sometimes we feel that we have to solve problems before we discuss them with the customer. If the solution is easy and quick, that may be the case. But in general, the customer is much happier if they are made aware of issues by you in a timely manner rather than hear about them after the fact (when they are fixed) or through some other channel or when they become critical emergencies.
I’m not saying run to the customer with every issue and then start planning. In fact, I don’t think any issue should be brought to the customer without at least one fix or workaround already thought out and ready to present to them as well. “The sky is falling” concept does not comfort the customer and will get you pulled from the project faster than you can say “earned value.” Always have some good information to go with the bad, and then discuss the best course of action with the customer. They’ll see you as a take-charge person who thinks out and works to correct issues rather than just a messenger of bad news.
I can’t stress this one enough. The customer sees you as the delivery person and the individual who is responsible for making sure that their million dollars is well spent on the project. You wouldn’t want an erratic or inconsistent individual as your financial planner and I’m certain that the customer doesn’t want that for their project manager either.
Deliver status reports when you say you will…and in advance, conduct status meetings regularly, deliver error-free documents, provide accurate project schedules, and always do your best to ensure your team hits the big deadlines. Consistency shows leadership and breeds confidence. Both with your customer and your team members.
Keep the Project Moving Forward
This one goes along with things I’ve written before about keeping your resources engaged. Making sure everyone knows what they’re responsible for at any given time means they won’t be looking at down time due to uncertainty and your resources will remain engaged and working on your tasks.
Likewise, keep on top of the schedule and the resource forecasts so you know when you need to engage new resources to keep the new tasks on target as well. The goal is to not let the project stall. If it stalls for customer funding, you can’t do much about that. But don’t let it stall because of you or your team or lack of resources. Customer satisfaction can drop like a rock in those cases and all momentum can be lost quickly.
Monitor Scope Closely
Keeping a close eye on scope helps in a number of ways. It keeps your team from spending time on tasks that are not in the original scope, it therefore keeps the budget and timeline in good standing, and for those items that are out of scope but are necessary…it will mean valuable and needed change orders that the customer will pay for and that will increase your project’s revenue and profitability. But most of all, in terms of customer satisfaction, it will ensure that the right tasks are getting done in the right timeframe.
In the final installment in this series, we’ll discuss ways to ensure that the solution you delivery is the one that the customer wants and needs.