“The first step in exceeding
your customer’s expectations is to
know those expectations.”
– Roy Hollister Williams
Doing lucrative business with clients is one of the most obvious activities every day of our existence. Companies who provide services, goods or products have reached a very high level of efficiency to reach clients, to make them feel interested, motivated and convinced to sign an agreement.
During the process of negotiations, the marketing or business presentations will inevitably cover what would be the Return On Investment (ROI) for the client, how this objective can be attained, etc. The final goal being to ensure both client and the supplier are in confidence they can do business together.
From past experiences in the corporate and industrial domains, I have contributed as a liaison specialist (AKA Business Specialist) during the various meetings pertaining to enhance one of the project management tools. There was a need for some enhancements, and requirements for changing some functionalities, well in other words, the application was due for a sort of revamp! The thing that struck me the most, with every delivery and after the “go-live” there were the requirements, questions about issues, a growing unsatisfactory feeling from frustrated users…
Image Courtesy: Talent Management
In fact if I could understand their requirements, but on the other hand I could not understand the reason of “why after” the various steps of well managed project things weren’t going as smoothly as they should! This is where from a successful delivery there were meetings after meetings trying to “fix” the issues, added to the fact that the application was live and that users were struggling with the various irritants of the solution. One can imagine how users reacted: instead of using the functionalities they were simply back to work manually!
After some thoughts and questions asked to various experts on the matter, while reading a report there was a comment speaking of: The Return On Expectations (ROE). I admit I was not familiar with this concept, so I did some research and found out how important it was to the completion of any project, not only for technology, but for every project that involved people. From one end: the client who engaged resources and budgets to the end users who would be expected to better do their job, responding to the expectations and satisfaction of these business needs requirements.
The way many projects were handled was somehow missing an element. Instead of just delivering and moving on (the “cookie-cutter” way of doing things) there was the necessity to introduce the principle of sustainability. A sustainability meaning essentially a follow-up with users, keeping in mind if the solution responded to the best of their needs, not assuming people would “adapt” and follow! The ROE for the client being that users could do their job in the most seamless possible manner.
This was a significant “lesson learned” that pushed the project delivery strategy to adopt measures in order to include such steps.
I am aware there is a well-established and proven expertise to evaluate and calculate the ROE on for various types of projects, I am not pretending to bring a better way of solving such issues. My approach uses simpler steps ahead of letting problems arise when it is too late in a project’s timeline: the care of users, of students of people! People matter, people are the first and final key of success of any kind of solution.
Thinking the ROE is obvious, that there is no need to add such steps for a delivery because of many considerations (time, budget, etc.) is – to my own perception – the most direct way to make client and users feel abandoned and caught by the experts who gave them something they are not feeling happy about.
The purpose of my paper, is to stress out the need to consider the human factor (users) as the most important partner. As specialists we are responsible to care not only for the business itself but to consider bringing people (Client and users) to better understand and learn about what would make a project their own! Bottom line users are the ones who will work and deal with any technological solution or learning program. Their expectations need to be addressed at all the milestones of a project’s life, else we would make them more reluctant to trust change or innovation this will push them to a certain “negative creativity” to bypass the solution they aren’t happy to use!
As much as ROI is important for a client, the ROE involves him with his employees, in the middle fall the specialists who deliver the required work! That – at least for me – makes us the first responsible for the success (or the failure) of such work.
On my latest e-learning mandate, I introduced the ROE principle to the development and delivery team as a game. We draw the timeline, added the milestones, and used coloured post-it stickers to show where we had to care of ROE in preparation for the users to engage into the process. Needless to say that the client’s comment was straight forward: “I am satisfied, it went beyond my expectations. Good job!”
I don’t think we needed more than these words to feel great!
Michel – December 2nd, 2014