Let the Client Be Your Project Leader

Customer-driven project management uses the voice of the client as a guide at every turn of the project’s life cycle to achieve optimum quality.

Project teams that put the interest of their clients are assured of repeat businesses and long-term relationships. They know that at the end of the day, their processes and methodologies are established to meet clients’ expectations. And meeting clients’ expectations hopefully means satisfaction.

It has always been the goal of project teams to complete projects on time within cost and fulfill quality criteria, but it has often been the case that when projects are implemented, project teams focus on their tasks more and lose sight of their relationships with clients. Now, thanks to the current dynamics of an increasingly demanding business environment, the management concept of too much organizational and process control that on many occasions resulted in alienating customers is slowly giving way to a marriage of disciplined process implementation and customer satisfaction. And by satisfaction, it means giving more than what is required.

Customer-driven project management uses the voice of the client as a guide at every turn of the project’s implementation process to achieve optimum quality. According to Bruce T. Barkley and James H. Saylor in their book Customer-Driven Project Management (2001), this management approach involves the following items, which we expand to meet the more complex needs of today’s client-supplier relationships:

  • Cooperation between client and vendor through a structured process. There has to be a mutual understanding of every step of the process and what is required from either party. Such expectations are written down as requirements, roles and responsibilities, decision points, milestones, and metrics.
  • The customer drives the project through customer-driven teams. The customer’s satisfaction is the end-goal of all efforts, and this satisfaction is defined by continuous quality improvement of products and services.
  • A link among the customer, process owners, and suppliers. The link refers to the integration of all efforts and internal processes used to arrive at task completion and their integration. Furthermore, this link also means unlimited access to clients, sponsors, and their project counterparts through open communication to set expectations and facilitate feedback.
  • A customer-led team that is fully capable to accomplish and improve every aspect of the project. The client is involved in building and managing the project team. But while the client has a high level of involvement in managing the team, members are encouraged to identify key areas of improvement, and communicate this knowledge. Unless empowered to do so through open communication, access to the right tools and technologies and trainings, project team members will only focus on accomplishing their tasks without so much regard for improvements in products and services, and this does not spell a healthy competitive spirit in the grander scale of things. In other words, make consultants out of project teams because in the long run, their accountability for the project will result in competitive products.  Encourage creativity and innovation.
  • A disciplined project management methodology. Clients and providers should agree on a project management system and implement this agreement at every stage of the product lifecycle. Because of the nature of this approach, the project starts and ends with quality, which means that quality issues are identified at the start of the project and addressed throughout its course. How quality issues are addressed also largely depends on a well-designed systems and implementation plans.
  • Customer-driven project management does not veer far from many project management approaches. However, client leadership and continuous improvement through the team’s feelings of ownership of the project spell the difference between just finishing tasks and pleasing the customer. 

    By ExecutiveBrief
    Technology Management Resource for Business Leaders