Can 'Zero Distance' make the difference?
With the APM Awards about to take place I wonder how much customer satisfaction plays a role in the selection of the winners. Ultimately, however much you follow process, governance and good practice, the deciding vote comes at the end of the project when the client provides the close out survey of how the project went. You might of course be lucky enough to get feedback sooner, and certainly can rely on that if things are not going too well. In our organisation we are not only striving towards ‘zero outage’ we have also adopted the ‘zero’ definition for our client engagement by using the term ‘Zero Distance’.
In the first half of the year we have seen a reduction in the numbers of customer surveys (the good, the bad and the ugly) returned into the PMO; this, despite implementing ever easier ways of responding to the surveys to encourage an increased return. By feeding this information back into the project management team, renewed focus has been given to getting an understanding of the reasons for that drop. In addition we were hearing of some excellent customer experiences and wanted to look at what enabled those.
Zero Distance is our way of interacting with the customer, working with them in some instances from as early as requirements definition through to the delivery of their programmes/projects and beyond into the support of their new products and services. It’s about the collaboration and approach; about being upfront and open.
Should those all be intuitive and normal behaviours? Probably, but all too often it becomes a ‘them’ and ‘us’ situation, especially if the project isn’t quite going to plan. So where does that leave us currently? Rather than just viewing the term as a marketing gimmick, we kick-off every project by meeting with the client and their team to set the right scene. We support this with excellent communication channels; regular updates and access to status information. The overall aim: to engage the right people in the client decision-making phases to ease the next steps and avoid iterative processes further down the line and not having to go back to revise scope.
This is an ongoing process/approach. The PMO is monitoring the customer satisfaction surveys in terms of results and volume of returns and we will see whether this is the way to get some ‘real’ feedback over time. After all...“It’s good to talk!”
Look out for the full article on taking a Zero Distance approach to stakeholder management in November’s issue of Project magazine.
This is a Project Excellence blog written by T-Systems, headline sponsor at the 2014 APM Project Management Awards.