“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Bill Gates, Gates Foundation, Co-Founder of Microsoft.
Vendors are hired to deliver something organization needs or wants done more cheaply, accurately, thoroughly, expertly, and/or quickly than the organization could otherwise do themselves. Among the worst feedback a vendor could get is “you know, we really could have done this ourselves.”
In order to delight the customer, the delivery actually has to be better. People go out to eat because they want a certain experience: fast and inexpensive, leisurely and with atmosphere, healthy and tasty. If the food doesn’t match the expectations, the customer may take action ranging from sending it back to telling all their friends “don’t go there.”
- Find the true influencers. Don’t assume the people who signed the contract or has the “C” or “VP” in their title are the most important influencers. More than one engagement has been de-railed by not knowing who leaders rely on for information and deisions. Spend time during the latter stages of contract finalization and/or the early days of the engagement to both fully know the formal titles and roles and intuit the informal but all-important influencers.
- Start before you start. In 2019, there is no excuse for not fully knowing a customer. Google and LinkedIn alone are a treasure trove of information (though make sure to fact check). I find it invaluable to have a “Week Zero” in the plan that is for initial planning, alignment and discovery – and during that week you can validate your research.
- Know the contract. It is amazing to me how often vendors start varying from the contractual documents like Statements of Work. The lead person on the vendor team should be checking on a weekly or even daily basis to see that work is on plan for high quality, on time deliverables. Nobody wants get to week 8 of a 16 week engagement and discover that work on something due in week 12 is in tepid or non-existing shape.
- Plans are useless and essential. Project Management 101 always apply. Waterfall, Agile – doesn’t matter. Create the most lightweight plan possible to achieve the work – that aligns to the contract (see #3 above). Then follow the plan, be transparent when the plan needs to change (because it will), bring up issues immediately and factually. And the vendor should take the lead with the plan unless it is contractually indicated otherwise – if the customer has to step up & take over, it’s a warning sign that you aren’t sufficiently managing the work.
- No substitute for actual presence. There is no substitute for being on-site and connecting personally for key meetings and milestones. Particularly with the afore-mentioned true influencers where you need to be thought of as strategic advisors in the long term. And ask for feedback at logical junctures.
- Bonus! Over prepare & manage the details. Scheduling a meeting? Have an agenda, prepare high quality materials (even if minor!), take and publish minutes, follow-up promptly. About to publish a deliverable? Do an internal quality check, dry-run the presentation, triple-test the code, make sure the format and content are customer-friendly.
It’s hard work to make a sale. It’s harder work to deliver and delight.
“Doing the best at this moment puts you in the best place for the next moment. ” Oprah Winfrey, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist
The Father’s Day weekend Target outages are the latest sad story of technology’s correlation to business results. No tech, no sales.
Technology helps make climate change real. Declassified spy satellite images from the 20th century show that the melting of glaciers is speeding up.
According to the World Economic Forum, by 2020 (less than six months away), there will be 40x more bytes than there are stars in the observable universe.