Monday, February 18, 2013

Ensuring the Customer experience in your project plan - it's harder than you think

Have you ever had the feeling that some of the project activities you had to complete during your development of a new product were somehow not adding value to your customer?

... or had that scary intuitive sense of not addressing a critical part of the customer experience in the project but not really knowing which part is was?

I can answer yes to both. Can you?

In my experience a lot of companies are spending significant ressources to ensure that the internal development projects cover everything needed to avoid failures. I'm sure most of you have been part of internal programs to increase quality (dare I say ISO 9000?) or efficiency (LEAN, Six Sigma, etc.). This strong focus on efficiency can be a good and necessary effort for an organization, but unfortunately it sometimes leads to the project losing track of the customer who is supposed to buy and use the product in the end - what I've previously referred to as the effectiveness of the product and project.

Today I'll introduce an advanced use of the End2End model that enable you to both map the customer experience to your detailed development project and provide you with a powerful reporting tool for stage gate reviews (e.g. before product launch).

First you draw the end2end model on the horizontal axis of a matrix (the "customer experience dimension"). Then you add the activities and deliverables from your project plan to the vertical axis of the matrix (the "project planning dimension").

You'll end up with a matrix like the one below where you can recognize the End2End model at the top.
Note how the individual "cross points" in the matrix have been filled out with status indicators (the normal project "traffic lights" indicating the status of the project activity). As you can see you have now a good overview of how each and every project activity addresses one or more elements in the customer experience as outlined in the End2End model. A powerful checklist that can almost directly be used at project reviews in more or less condensed form.

The project example given here indicates that the Ideation and Project planning phases seem to have been almost successfully completed. But there seem to be serious issues with Project execution.

Now ... if you look carefully the matrix you can see a vertical and horizontal axis with no status indicators (see A and B outlined below).
The "A" line indicates a project activity that has no direct relation to any part of the End2End customer experience. This might be fine, as there are a wide range of internal activities addressing for instance internal financial reporting that needs to be done during a development project, but as a market/customer driven PM I think it is a good tool to have to be able to challenge the necessity of such activities in the name of efficiency! Notice how the customer/market driven approach can also help you identify efficiency opportunities?

The "B" column on the other hand indicates a more important problem: a part of the customer experience is not being addressed by any specific project activities. This is most likely not a good thing! You need to make sure that all parts of the customer experience is being addressed by your development project, otherwise you're not taking your end2end customer driven product responsibility seriously.

Hopefully you can see how this, in principle very simple model, can provide you with very valuable insights into you development project. A word of warning though - you'll find that it is not a simple task to map project activities to the customer experience. You will discover that it takes some work and a lot of careful argumentation to do correctly. This is where you might call in the consultants to help you, me for instance :-)

Let me know what we've missed in our work with the model. I'll be very interested in hearing about you real-world experiences with these challenges and how You are addressing them.