Guaranteeing consistent quality
Martin Symonds, Respond Professional Services Manager at Aptean, examines the four key considerations to ensure consistency and quality when project planning
With more pressure than ever to deliver projects on time, on budget and on brief, it’s vital that we look to guarantee the consistency and quality of delivery at every step of the way, particularly when it comes to business systems and software. In light of this, what are the four key considerations to be kept front of mind to ensure timely, cost-effective and most importantly, successful projects, every time?
1. Strategic alignment
It’s crucial that both customer and supplier are well aligned in terms of what they want to achieve and how they will achieve it. Understanding customer goals and priorities is vital if the project is to be a success. In many cases representation from the project team is part of the sales process, ensuring there is continuity throughout the project and first-hand understanding about what exactly the customer wants to achieve, including the likely combination of factors that need to be considered, not least scope, time and budget. If there is no project representation as part of the sales process, it’s vital that the sales team takes time to brief the project team.
The most successful projects begin with a proposal confirming that the supplier’s principal understanding of the project is correct. Only once this is agreed should a more formal Statement of Work (SOW) be generated. This clarifies key areas of engagement such as:
- The specific approach
- A more detailed clarification of the scope of the project
- Key considerations
The accuracy of the SOW is critical to the success of the project, representing the solid foundation that underpins the engagement. Once the SOW is agreed and signed, a kick-off meeting should then take place, including those who haven’t been involved in the initial sales process, bringing them up to speed with the specific expectations and deliverables of the project as defined in the SOW. If there is no project charter, a comprehensive SOW is the most important point of reference from which to start any project.
2. Consistent best practice
When you’re dealing with a software product, there are often very specific and tangible deliverables involved, which wouldn’t necessarily vary from customer to customer. What this means is that suppliers can add even more value through the working practices they employ. By drawing on their experience of delivering a consistent software product to multiple customers, across multiple business sectors, they can bring that expertise and knowledge to each new project.
Also, every member of the project team should be accountable for any customer interaction they have, be that taking part in regular update meetings or running a Requirements Workshop. Colleagues should be expected to prepare properly for every customer interaction they make, ensuring it can be delivered confidently and credibly, as well as guaranteeing any follow-up actions or decisions are captured, and making sure that expectations are correctly managed every step of the way.
Additionally, all interactions and tasks must add genuine value to the project. It’s important to consider the risk / reward balance. If suppliers invest too much time, not to mention money, in mitigating risk, the delicate balance between cost vs benefit can be upset, leading to cost and timing issues, which can jeopardise the successful delivery of the entire project.
3. Pre-defined value
Again, the benefit of experience and expertise is a major bonus. In certain circumstances, it’s hugely beneficial to be able to map out a project as early on in the process as possible. This helps customers to focus on what suppliers are proposing to deliver, relative to their end goals - clearly articulating the start point, what the supplier is going to do, how it will be done, and how costs will be managed.
As such, the use of template configuration offerings can be a very useful tool here, particularly when dealing with industries where there are clear, pre-defined compliance or process requirements. This could be templates which enable compliance with the UK’s FCA for financial services customers, or a GDPR template which ensures compliance enablement as standard.
Where this is the case, the supplier can implement a solution that is already built, accompanied by a pre-defined, proven and fully-costed delivery approach. What this helps to do is define the project from end-to-end, providing a service and solution which significantly accelerates a project, whilst ensuring the best possible cost-benefit outcome for the customer.
These offerings don’t need to be limited to products, either. With pre-defined service packages such as training, customers have the opportunity to take greater ownership of the software product, resulting in an opportunity for even faster ROI.
4. Closing the loop
With any project, it is crucial to maintain excellent communication not only between customer and supplier, but within the supplier project team too. Alongside formal project reviews and meetings, it’s important that colleagues get together regularly, be that virtually or physically, to share experiences and feedback. It’s only by doing this, that teams can hope to improve processes and practices, taking on board vital experiences to inform continued, consistent project success, however challenging the brief.