The goal for any project manager is to deliver the project on schedule, within budget, and to the customer’s satisfaction. To have a successful project, you must work with the customer throughout the life of the project. Avoid hoping and praying the customer will accept the final deliverable.
#1 Know Your Customer
Every customer is unique. What makes one happy will turn off another one. Take the time to find out more about what makes your customer tick. If your customer is a business owner, rest assured that she is concerned mostly about performance. The entrepreneur cares about how the results of the project will increase the bottom line.
When working with corporate customers, understand the nuances of the layers of management. You will likely work with someone who reports to several other people. From this person, you will likely hear the following: “Let me take this information back to my team.” “We have a meeting this Wednesday to determine if we met the milestones.” In other words, while you might be working with one person, that individual cannot make decisions on his own.
#2 Create a Requirements List
Project success depends on creating a requirements list that is customer-focused. It is critical to know exactly what the customer wants. Ask the questions that will determine what the end-result is supposed to deliver. Avoid thinking that you are building features and functionality for the customer. The mechanics of what you do are largely irrelevant.
The customer is concerned with the output, and not necessarily the process. For example, you create a web-driven database to collect e-commerce transactions. Collecting and storing the information is important, but the customer cares more about the market segmentation reports that are generated, which allows them to make follow-up sales.
#3 Seek Feedback
The project manager is responsible for asking the customer how the project is coming along. Be more specific by seeking answers to these types of questions: “Are the links easily found on this page?” “Is the shopping cart customer-friendly?” “What are we missing?”
The feedback from the customer is sought both formally and informally. You should have scheduled meetings to discuss progress on the project. Absent these meetings, spend time with the customer on the telephone, via email, a webinar here and there, and lunch meetings. You must develop a system wherein communication flows freely between you and the customer.
Getting the customer involved during the project is essential for project success. By making sure that you and the customer are on the same page, you avoid scope creep and improve the odds of developing a long-term working relationship.