Do we know everything? No. Do we know everything about the project we are leading and about what we are supposed to be doing? We should! We aspire to, but there are likely a few things missing along the way. We learn as we go along. Do we know what our customer is always thinking? What they think about our performance or how we are managing them, the team and ourselves? No.
Well, I'm hopefully going to close that knowledge gap a little.
Here are my top five things that your project customer assumes, hopes or wishes you knew about them and the project you are leading for them.
You're the expert, not them.
You are the skilled Business Analyst or consultant. You and the Project Manager are the individuals leading the team with the skill set needed to identify, design, and develop their solution. If they had that skill set or the time to do it, they wouldn't need you.
Understand that you are the expert. The client knows that and wants you in that role. They may annoy you, demand things, they may even seem like they are getting in your way or trying to take over, but really, at the end of the day, they will be the most satisfied and confident if you are in control, take the lead, and direct them.
Money is very important to them.
We all must answer to someone higher up with respect to budget, profit margin, and overall financial health of the work we are performing. It works the same way for the project sponsor.
The project customer cares about the money they are spending on the project, and they want to feel comfortable that you are spending it wisely. Therefore, they expect this to be reflected in any weekly status reporting and dashboard view in terms of actions, work progress, and often budget analysis.
They have a day job.
They want you to know that while the project is very important to them and may be an important part of their career, they also have a day job. Rarely is the project you are working on their only responsibility. After all, they shouldn't have to do too much on the project because you and your team are the real experts, not them, right?
Related Article: Getting the Project Client to Focus on Requirements
They have other tasks to perform, bosses to report to, and even teams to lead. So they might not always be available with the information or decisions you need.
Keep them engaged, give them time, and be patient. And take charge and make good decisions in their absence.
They do not know how to test very well.
Your client may not like to say it, and they may not show it, but it is often the case that project customers do not know how to test very well. And they certainly won't be experienced on this new solution you are planning to implement. Help them. Don't do it for them - that would be a conflict of interest. But you can help them with test cases and test scenarios and hold their hand through the user acceptance testing (UAT) process.
You may find yourself and some individuals on your team spending more hours before and during UAT than you had in estimated in the budget, but it's worth it, and you'll know to include more hours in the schedule and estimate next time.
You are not their friend.
Keep it professional, no matter how friendly or easy the communication becomes. If you let it go too casual, you risk missing some information sharing along the way by assuming the other party may already know.
The customer may seem very comfortable with you, but you are still not their friend. They are paying for your services. Run professional meetings, continue professional conversation, and engage them like they are the project sponsor, not your friend from high school. And avoid the drinks at the bar with them after a big onsite meeting - it's just not professional.
Summary / call for input
We do everything we can for our project customers. Lead their projects, manage the budget, engage them and try to keep them as focused and confident as possible throughout the project. But we can't get inside their head, and they don't tell us everything. If we could, though, these are things that I feel they would be thinking that we should know as far as what is driving their behavior and management of the process.
Remember, the Business Analysts, Project Managers and teams are the professionals hired to manage the projects. But in the end, it is the customer's project, so keep them engaged and informed throughout. Have those periodic one-on-ones with the project sponsor to ensure that you know what they are expecting of you on each engagement and at every turn. Sometimes their expectations need to be reset, and that's ok.
The key is never to stay out of touch with them for very long.
What about our readers? What do you think your project customers assume you know about them and the projects you plan and manage for them? What do you think they wish you realized as far as what's important to them? What, from your experience in working with project customers and key stakeholders, would you add to this list or change about it? Please share and discuss.