1. Aligning yourself with your customers is more important in today’s environment of austerity. The better you understand and interact with your customer, the longer they remain your customer.
2. Customers want to be heard and they want to see continually improving results. This includes making it easy for them to do business with you, asking them what they want and constantly looking for ways to make deliveries faster and less expensive.
3. Project Management Offices (PMOs) can be established to unify processes and consolidate customer communications so that the customer’s experience is optimized. The PMO achieves this by introducing good practices throughout the organization and coordinate with proposal teams, marketing and sales, and project managers
There’s No Competition
The easiest business to win comes from your current customers. The profit equation includes the cost of finding and winning business. Developing RFPs can be expensive and do not always translate into wins. Repeat business can be beneficial to both the customer and the contractor because new projects can be expedited. Customers do not have to explain again what their business processes are, and don’t expend resources and energy with a competitive bidding process. Contractors obtain similar benefits. There is an opportunity for new business to occur naturally and almost seamlessly.
This assumes that the customer and contractor are mutually satisfied with the relationship. Both parties will benefit when it is easy, convenient and profitable to work together. When business parties have no relationship and not much to lose (they have alternatives to a negotiated agreement), they engage in competitive behaviors and some capital is unnecessarily expended that could have been spent more efficiently had there been a trusted partner. This trust is built over time and requires all parties to learn of each other’s interests rather than seeking fixed positions.
What Does Everybody Want?
Traditionally, good customer relationships have been built by asking the customer what they want, and then delivering to meet their expectations. This also applies to project management and information technology. Discovering what customers want on an ongoing basis help initiate new projects and help keep current projects on track for success.
This is easy in its purest sense with a simple business example of one business unit from the customer and contractor organizations. Large organizations have many business units, and efficiencies are lost as individual business units seek out contractor business units to perform project work. In a more complex example, imagine 4 business units that seek work performed by 3 contractor business units (either from different companies or within the same companies without coordination). There are 12 potential interactions, each consuming time and money.
If each organization utilized a Project Management Office to coordinate projects amongst their business units, the number of potential interactions is reduced. The potential savings increase as the number of business units increase.
One drawback of coordinating project requests and project management centrally is the potential communications disconnect. Customers in the business units may not get exactly what they need. Fortunately, PMOs can also serve as the leaders of project standards within their respective organizations. When there are standard agreements in place within organizations and between customers and contractors, it becomes easier to maintain lifetime relationships.
Although standards cost money to develop or implement, keep in mind that this cost will replace the cost of having to seek new business. Standards also allow processes to be completed more efficiently which provide a divided to both the customer and the contractor.
Standards also expedite deliveries and ensure their quality. This applies in project management as well. As an example, in the pharmaceutical industry, projects for new drugs undergo an FDA review for each clinical stage. These reviews go faster when project schedules conform to FDA requirements. When they do not, the approval process slow down and increased scrutiny and audits ensue. PMOs serve as relationship managers in that they help the organization provide the customer what they want, the way they wanted it.
On a more strategic level, the PMO can work with other customer oriented groups within the organization. Marketing and sales often conflict with project managers because each group has a different mission. The PMO can help expose conflicting interests and move discussions towards developing and maintaining lifetime customers rather than each group’s more limited interests. The PMO can consider outbound communications under the lenses of both customer service and project management so that the organization adapts a posture of partnership. Balanced score cards are good for this form of communication because they show how key performance indicators support business goals, the customer focus, and the health of project management processes and capabilities.
Thomas Swider, PMP
Tom’s interest in project management started while working at Primavera Systems in technical support for SureTrak Project Scheduler. Although mastering the intricacies of GANTT charts and resource leveling were challenging mental puzzles, Tom learned that there was a lot more to project management than the charts, and sought opportunities to work on and lead projects while working at Computer Sciences Corporation. He was able to act as project manager for both training and support desk projects.
He has been with Computer Aid, Inc. since 2004. His expertise in eLearning Project Management helped in the successful delivery of internal training courses and CAI University.
Tom holds a Master of Project Management degree from Keller Graduate School of Management, which was earned entirely as a virtual learner, completing his work while on buses, planes and hotel rooms. He earned his PMP credential in 2011, and is currently a consultant for CAI’s Project Office Plus+ service offering.