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What Does the Customer Really Want?

When the project manager sets out to design a project that will produce a project deliverable, it is standard practice to review documents and communication outlining customer requirements at the beginning of a project. These documents should contain specific characteristics required by the customer. Documents such as a statement of work (SOW) or customer specification are typically used at the beginning of a project and should outline exactly what a customer is asking of the organization. But these documents might not always articulate exactly what the customer really wants. Therefore, the project manager has to expand the scope of understanding customer quality and must be proactive with soliciting as much information from the customer as she can to discern a more detailed quality expectation.

Customers can outline what the “requirements” might be for a specific project deliverable in the form of an SOW or specification. In some cases, however, customers might have assumptions about a particular level of quality, or items that might be included as “industry-standard and normal to this type of project deliverable,” and the organization misinterprets unwritten quality expectations or does not understand them at all. Project managers and those assessing the initial statement of work at the beginning of a project might not be aware of these types of assumptions or certain industry standards. and these quality expectations will not be included as requirements. It is incumbent on the project manager and project staff to engage in communication outlining as much detail as possible and in some cases asking for details of various characteristics of a project deliverable that may stimulate the customer to articulate other expectations that can now be documented as requirements. The most important component in developing and approving a project is to understand what the customer really wants. In most cases, this is simply the organization’s ability to effectively communicate with a customer to develop a comprehensive and accurate project deliverable requirement.

As the project manager begins the process of developing the project schedule, budget of estimates, and quality management plan, it is imperative she begin with as much detailed information as possible to make these project artifacts accurate, which will allow her to effectively manage the triple constraint. Success in completing a project on schedule, on budget, and at the customer’s expected quality starts with accurate information at the beginning of the project. Project managers should acquire as much accurate and relevant information as possible to define the project deliverable to ensure project success at completion. This book explores the details involved in gathering information, analyzing work activity details, and developing comprehensive and accurate project schedules, budgets, and quality management processes using various tools and techniques.

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