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Topics: Stakeholder Management
Have you managed projects where you never meet the customer?
I'm working for a support and advocacy organization for military veterans. The program is a digital transformation with several projects within it. The end customer is ultimately veterans who receive better services through enabling technology and staff that work in better ways to support these veterans. It just struck me that I may never meet the end customer. Have you had a similar experience?
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I was in the same situation three years ago in a military base construction project. This has both pros and cons. It may be difficult to manage client requirements without face to face communication. On the other hand, everything is clearly defined in these types of contracts.
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 22, 2019 12:09 PM
Sante Vergini
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Hi Alice, that makes sense that with some construction projects perhaps the end-customers are not met.
Hi Sante,

During my experience, it happened to me to work on projects (one of them was a 3D animation for Robotics) without being able to properly meet the client nor communicate directly to him. Everything needed to go through a third party. I found it pretty challenging because we realized that the deliverables we sent or the explanations we gave were not communicated correctly and entirely to the end client. This led to misalignments and less efficiency. In the end, we managed to take the lead with the end client, we communicated directly and set up a great working relationship. Therefore the overall project experience improved as well as the satisfaction of the client and the atmosphere within the team. I believe it's extremely important to meet the end client and to be able to catch-up on project aspects from time to time even though there's a third party involved.

Best regards,
Roxana
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 22, 2019 12:19 PM
Sante Vergini
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Hi Roxana, I know the feeling. Around 10 years ago I was in a similar situation where there was a third party between us and the client. It is very difficult to know if that third party is correctly reflecting the client's wishes. Did you have a clear document or contract that whatever the third party tells you also reflects the end client? This is important or else problems will occur later.
Dear Sante
Interesting about your question
Thanks for sharing

How was the customer requirements survey done?
Is the project development approach adaptive (iterative, incremental or agile)?
How do you get customer feedback?
Is it possible, within the project, to have contact with customers?
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 22, 2019 12:24 PM
Sante Vergini
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Hi Luis, requirements analysis is being performed with various departments who in effect represent these veterans. Since there are tens of thousands of veterans (and their families who are also represented), dealing directly would be difficult.
This is a common challenge when delivering a service capability to an organization whose clients are not readily accessible to the team. Where possible, the team should still make efforts to locate and meet representative customers because otherwise it will be very challenging to construct good personas if those or similar product management tools are utilized.

Kiron
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 22, 2019 12:26 PM
Sante Vergini
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Hi Kiron, yes true. I can think of some ethical reasons for that barrier, such as with projects involving children. Again, as in most examples of this situation, there are third parties who represent the end customers.
Yes. When implementing administration systems, while I met the customer service reps, I had not met the agents, nor the customers.

Currently, in marketing, I do not meet the target market, neither physician nor customer base.

That said, this is not abnormal and constructs are in place to reduce gaps. For instance, currently, we have marketing leads and architects that do have line of sight and access to the customer, both directly and indirectly through conversations, market research, and data insights.
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 22, 2019 12:30 PM
Sante Vergini
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Hi Andrew, it becomes an interesting situation when something goes wrong. Contracts may be in place for those representatives to capture what the customers want/need, but often it's a gray area who is responsible when things go wrong. Do you find that is sometimes the case?
yes,
sometimes you may not see the end-user/customer
You always has a "voice of customer". That person must be accountable for the solution you are creating.
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 22, 2019 12:34 PM
Sante Vergini
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That's the interesting thing about this Sergio, accountability. Even with contracts in place, and the voice of the customer in place, because the project manager is accountable for the project, often they are assumed to be accountable for some things that go wrong along the way, even if in fact it is incorrect representation from the customer. This is where documentation is key.
Sante

Never happened with me personally before but that’s maybe due to the line of business I work in.

However, I totally agree with Kiron. I would initiate and make the effort to arrange for at least one meeting.

RK
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 22, 2019 12:40 PM
Sante Vergini
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Hey Rami, did you see Alice's response above? She was also involved in construction projects. I understand there is a project sponsor who in effect is the customer, but I am referring more to the ultimate end-customers (i.e. teachers who will utilize a school that is being constructed).
Nov 22, 2019 3:47 AM
Replying to Alice Hanson
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I was in the same situation three years ago in a military base construction project. This has both pros and cons. It may be difficult to manage client requirements without face to face communication. On the other hand, everything is clearly defined in these types of contracts.
Hi Alice, that makes sense that with some construction projects perhaps the end-customers are not met.
Nov 22, 2019 3:50 AM
Replying to Roxana Staneiu
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Hi Sante,

During my experience, it happened to me to work on projects (one of them was a 3D animation for Robotics) without being able to properly meet the client nor communicate directly to him. Everything needed to go through a third party. I found it pretty challenging because we realized that the deliverables we sent or the explanations we gave were not communicated correctly and entirely to the end client. This led to misalignments and less efficiency. In the end, we managed to take the lead with the end client, we communicated directly and set up a great working relationship. Therefore the overall project experience improved as well as the satisfaction of the client and the atmosphere within the team. I believe it's extremely important to meet the end client and to be able to catch-up on project aspects from time to time even though there's a third party involved.

Best regards,
Roxana
Hi Roxana, I know the feeling. Around 10 years ago I was in a similar situation where there was a third party between us and the client. It is very difficult to know if that third party is correctly reflecting the client's wishes. Did you have a clear document or contract that whatever the third party tells you also reflects the end client? This is important or else problems will occur later.
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