Customer centricity is being embraced in all aspects of business like moving to a customer centric organization, customer centric design, in sales, marketing etc. It is only a click away to amazon.com to understand the benefits of being customer centric. It is being fully realized now what Mahatma Gandhi said about customers and I quote
“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”
Since projects are part of a business, what “customer centricity” means to a project and how projects can be customer centric?
Traditionally projects are deemed successful if its scope of work is completed on time and cost with acceptable quality. But not anymore. Projects are deemed successful only if it generates the required benefits to the customer for which the project outcome is meant for. So are there steps we can take to do a project in a customer centric way so that the customer needs are fulfilled which in turn make the project a successful one. Here are some basic ones
Understand the real need of the customer which will be satisfied by the project outcome and the bigger picture into which the project fits
- How the project outcome fits the business lifecycle or user lifecycle
- What are the underlying metrics which will be used to measure whether the project outcome meets the needs of the customer
Keep the project team reminded of the needs being satisfied by the project and how the project fits into the bigger picture
- This will help the project team to be creative
- Use industry specific techniques like story boarding, life cycle sequencing, mental model etc to keep the team reminded
Build an advisory partnership with the customer/stakeholders of the project
- Customers may not always know what can and cannot be done and also whether what they are asking for will help meet their success. It is important to advice customers when gaps in understanding are found and build a trusted relationship
- Plan to deliver projects in iterations so that early feedback can be received from the customer without expending all the resources. This will help build trust and also get early buy in from the customer.
Cultivate the culture of answering the following three basic questions by the project team whenever the team works on a deliverable.This requires the team to clearly understand the need being satisfied by the project.
- Is the deliverable being produced useful in terms of meeting the customer needs
- Is the deliverable being produced usable to meet the customer needs
- Will the deliverable be used to meet the customer needs
Put in place processes for the project to be agile. It will help the project team to respond quickly based on the feedback from the customer based on the past iterations. For e.g. using a components based model of development will help reusability when the customer wants a change, resulting in quick turn around and minimal cost/time/effort impact.