Making Your Customer the Hero
Why do some deployment plans not work out as well as hoped?
One or more of the following ‘ingredients’ was likely missing:
Speaking the same language does not equate to a common understanding, especially when that language is not the mother tongue for one or more of the parties involved. Try to avoid using slang terms, complex sentence structures or unusual words.;
Terminology – For every solution, there are acronyms and specific terms that are used. For example, most people think they know what ‘tokenization’ means. But since there are multiple possible implementations for tokenization, there must be a common understanding of what is meant when the term is used. This can be done in the form of a Glossary;
Expectations – Expectations must be set clearly and met. The biggest risks posed in any deployment plan come from misaligned expectations: Customer: “You said we’ll get a Spangleflex Widget today” Supplier: “Yes, and we delivered the Spangleflex Widget” Customer:” That’s not what I expected, it doesn’t have the flangeplank” ……well, you get the picture. Clear communication and consistent terminology will help align expectations;
Fear of sounding ignorant – People will often assume that someone else will explain issue ‘x’, or they will understand when they read the meeting notes or product documentation instead of raising a question. It is imperative to foster an environment where any on-topic question is welcome. Explanations provided in plain English will reduce the possibility of these types of incidents;
Understand to whom the client stakeholders are giving service within their organization – There is a deployment plan, and it has been approved. If we know what is driving the customer to deploy the solution, and we are not only focused on deploying the solution, there is a much greater chance of success and a much greater chance that the value derived from the solution will be higher. See how you can improve the solution utilization by taking advantage of what is already deployed, ensuring that the benefit outweighs the cost;
Understand the outside influences and the ‘unwritten goals’ – Everyone says their deployment is the most important. And it is – to them. Usually, multiple projects are running in parallel, which means there will be resource constraints outside the control of the deployment team. Let the customer know that you understand that you are just one of several projects and are aware that these can impact what you are doing. Getting the unwritten goals can be harder – for example, there can be KPIs on meeting deployment deadlines that will affect individuals, which are designed to keep deployments in line with the plan. Equally though, when deployment timelines need to be changed, meeting the KPIs will affect the willingness to accommodate change;
Building trust is simple; maintaining that trust is hard. The bottom line here is that when you commit to something within your control, deliver on it. Never commit to something on behalf of someone else, and never commit to something that you cannot control;
Scope creep – It is human nature to strive to be helpful. Unfortunately, trying to accommodate scope creep almost always provides exactly the opposite. When you believe that there is scope creep, discuss the scenario, and agree. In every case, a better result can be achieved by adding a new task in the deployment under the label scope creep. Such an entry clearly shows it was not considered in the beginning and has now been allocated timelines and resources. After the deployment there will be time to figure out why there was scope creep;
Face-to-face – Meet in person where possible, and at least once to kick off the deployment plan.
In short, avoid surprises, meet (or surpass) expectations and make your customer a hero.