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PM Essence
Satisfying the Customer beyond
Contractual Obligation :

                The Growing Demand in Project Management

- Amaresh Porey, PMP

A difficulty often experienced in Project Management is with regard to strict adherence to the stated project scope. Since dependencies , assumptions and even acceptance test plan and the criteria for acceptance are often not defined upfront , customer's expectations (i.e. undefined requirements, as against 'needs' which are defined requirements) go up, resulting in scope creep, erosion into profits, and often loss of goodwill. The customer expects them to be guided at every phase of the project.
Experience
Usually the solution involves a great deal of stakeholder management, establishment of relationships and a strong control of the project budget.

This paper discusses the various situations, challenges, and learning's with a couple of case studies.

The project was to transform the application maintenance process from the conventional way to ITIL framework and also to transition from the incumbent vendor to the new vendor for about 40 applications including 2 ERP applications SAP and Ariba. When the project was about to enter the final stage, the customer told the project manager that he could not ask the business users to follow the ITIL methodology and raise ticket for every problem they encounter in the system, thus shattering the basic pillars of the new process. The customer was expecting the project team to make the system go live and also to take care of the end user request to work in the old ways. Although the transition was successful, the customer and the project team, the continued non-cooperation from the end users created problems for the new vendor to manage and report the SLA adherence. The problem was ultimately solved when the customer and the project manager jointly decided to explain to the end users as to how the new process would benefit the business, resulting in a smooth and phased transition department by department. Here,, though the job of changing end user mindset was basically the responsibility of customer, the contractor had to help out. The risks involved in this situation were entirely foreseeable, and upfront stakeholder involvement could have mitigated them to a large extent.

In another case, implementation of a CRM solution involved the use of one module by 5000 users spread across the globe, and it was felt necessary to train them all in the use of the module. The SoW, however, had not included the training as part of the scope, though the project would not serve its purpose without it.

Neither the budget nor the schedule was elastic enough to admit this scope creep. The contractor's solution would be to have a remote video coaching, while the customer would ask for a Train-the-Trainer program at the contractor's expense. The point is that a solution with a minimum incremental costs is possible. Here again, a little foresight on the part of the contractor while making the Proposal could have avoided the problem.

Conclusion: The objective of the contract should be served at the end of the day. If the SoW that is drawn up does not have this understanding, and does not take into account this fundamental need, project
management practice should rise above the scope of the SoW in such cases. At the same time, one cannot afford to stretch oneself beyond a limit, and hence it is prudent to :

• Partner with customer to understand the project
• Establish a common goal
• Expore the experience and knowledge gained from past events to 'expect the unexpected' and
• Keep a continuous control over the budget.

Reference – Satisfying the Customer beyond Contractual Obligation : The Growing Demand in Project Management, By - Amaresh Porey, PMP, PM National Conference, 2011.