GET YOUR CUSTOMER IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT
Wouldn’t it be great to have an IT department that worked on the right projects, delivered on time and within budget, with all the original functionality still in scope and implemented software without major bugs?
When I ask people in a professional setting about their experience with IT, they don’t tend to talk about it in this way. Too expensive, too complex, too little – too late. That’s what people are saying when speaking about their IT department, their applications, or the support they experience.
Why is this? Why is there such a gap between IT and people from the business?
When I was young and started programming, I made some software for a neighbour. He wanted an application to administer data for his sports club. I also made software for a small company that wanted to keep track of the fuel consumption of their cars. And when I delivered it, I didn’t get these remarks. So, what did I do different (besides working for free)? My clients weren’t IT-savvy. This happened in an era the word IT-savvy didn’t even exist.
My answer to the previous question is layers.
The person I talked to as a hobbyist-programmer was not only the user of the application, he was also the customer. And I made him exactly what he asked. And if not, I explained why I couldn’t deliver what he wanted. And then, together, we found an alternative that worked for both of us.
In a professional setting, there are a lot of layers between the customer and the person delivering the software. And somewhere in these layers we lose track of wat the customer wants. In a lot of cases he isn’t even involved in the whole process!
The manager deciding the project’s funding, isn’t the analyst defining the scope or writing the requirements. An architect designs the application, and somewhere along the line is the programmer, more interested in writing code than in the customer’s problem or need.
This is of course a bit of a caricature. But as in every good caricature, the characteristics are familiar and recognisable.
As a result, we are not delivering the right projects, we don’t respect timings and, in the best-case scenario, we deliver what was asked and not what is needed. In short, we lack focus, effectiveness, and efficiency.
So how can we get the customer back in this process? It all starts with good governance.
Doing the right projects at the right time with the right people. It is my strong belief that it really is that simple.
If you do the right projects, at the right time with the right people, there’s nothing that can really go wrong.
But how do we determine what are the right projects to do? Well, look at your company from the customer’s perspective. What does your customer want from you, how does he want to interact and what is your product or service worth to hem or her? If you have this information you can select the right projects. You can read more about this in a previous post.
If you have selected the project you want to start, there’s a lot of communication to do. Don’t just share scope and requirements, share the vision, share the company’s stakes, but most of all, share the customers dream. This will enable every member in the project team to think with you, to do suggestions. Use the true power of your people, let them start co-creating instead of just doing their job.
As for project roles, let someone represent the customer in the project. Or, if possible, involve the customer directly.
I’m aware that I may have oversimplified the problems companies are facing. But I am convinced that changing your perspective to that of the client, will bring immediate improvement in the way projects are run.
Thanks for reading. And please, leave a comment.