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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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Nov 22, 2019 4:31 AM
Replying to Luis Branco
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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?
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.
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1 reply by Luis Branco
Nov 22, 2019 3:21 PM
Luis Branco
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Dear Sante
There are techniques that allow us to get end customer feedback among them:
- Focus group
- Questionnaires to a representative sample of the universe
- Interviews

Of course, collecting and processing information has an associated cost.
May not be foreseen under the project
But it's worth having end-user feedback

Conducting such studies may result in cost savings to the project sponsor.
Nov 22, 2019 6:34 AM
Replying to Kiron Bondale
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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
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.
Nov 22, 2019 7:06 AM
Replying to Andrew Craig
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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.
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?
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1 reply by Andrew Craig
Nov 23, 2019 3:02 PM
Andrew Craig
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No, not really. There are roles in place with the responsibility to be the voice of the customer. The contracts in place incorporate that premise, as in the validation is from the basis of the client, not the customer.
Nov 22, 2019 10:41 AM
Replying to Sergio Luis Conte
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You always has a "voice of customer". That person must be accountable for the solution you are creating.
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.
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1 reply by Sergio Luis Conte
Nov 22, 2019 12:51 PM
Sergio Luis Conte
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I am facing that all the time no matter my customers are most of them internal, my partners. Project manager is not accountable for the product/service/result to be created in terms of its definition. So, "voice of customer", "product owner", "client embassador", "business point of contact" or any other term you like to use must be accountable for that. More than the documentation (I agree with your statement) is the ability from project manager side to push somebody to that. The important thing is to make clear that is not the project manager project or solution. The owner is the customer or its representative. In our case, we never meet the customer because it is impossible. Just they are invited to kickoff.
Nov 22, 2019 10:49 AM
Replying to Rami Kaibni
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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
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).
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1 reply by Rami Kaibni
Nov 22, 2019 12:43 PM
Rami Kaibni
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Sante

I saw Alice response and I can't speak to her experience. I personally worked overseas on high profile projects and what I said comes from my experience. As a PM, I would always consider having at least one meeting with the customer (I do not mean the Sponsor but the End User).

RK
Nov 22, 2019 12:40 PM
Replying to 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).
Sante

I saw Alice response and I can't speak to her experience. I personally worked overseas on high profile projects and what I said comes from my experience. As a PM, I would always consider having at least one meeting with the customer (I do not mean the Sponsor but the End User).

RK
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 22, 2019 1:03 PM
Sante Vergini
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@Rami, whenever possible that's what I always try to do also. I was thinking that there is no reason why a project manager can't be proactive and meet some of the end customers. In my case, there are plenty of forums and functions where these military veterans go to that I could attend and get to know their thoughts on the projects I am managing that might impact them.
Nov 22, 2019 12:34 PM
Replying to 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.
I am facing that all the time no matter my customers are most of them internal, my partners. Project manager is not accountable for the product/service/result to be created in terms of its definition. So, "voice of customer", "product owner", "client embassador", "business point of contact" or any other term you like to use must be accountable for that. More than the documentation (I agree with your statement) is the ability from project manager side to push somebody to that. The important thing is to make clear that is not the project manager project or solution. The owner is the customer or its representative. In our case, we never meet the customer because it is impossible. Just they are invited to kickoff.
Nov 22, 2019 12:43 PM
Replying to Rami Kaibni
...
Sante

I saw Alice response and I can't speak to her experience. I personally worked overseas on high profile projects and what I said comes from my experience. As a PM, I would always consider having at least one meeting with the customer (I do not mean the Sponsor but the End User).

RK
@Rami, whenever possible that's what I always try to do also. I was thinking that there is no reason why a project manager can't be proactive and meet some of the end customers. In my case, there are plenty of forums and functions where these military veterans go to that I could attend and get to know their thoughts on the projects I am managing that might impact them.
Hello Sante,

I agree with Rami. Meeting the end customer at least once will help to build rapport and make the project go smoother (even if it's just lunch).
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1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 22, 2019 3:50 PM
Sante Vergini
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Hi Victor, I agree, whenever possible (if it's possible).
Nov 22, 2019 12:24 PM
Replying to 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.
Dear Sante
There are techniques that allow us to get end customer feedback among them:
- Focus group
- Questionnaires to a representative sample of the universe
- Interviews

Of course, collecting and processing information has an associated cost.
May not be foreseen under the project
But it's worth having end-user feedback

Conducting such studies may result in cost savings to the project sponsor.
...
1 reply by Sante Vergini
Nov 22, 2019 3:52 PM
Sante Vergini
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Luis, add to those: Dephi, observation, and documentary analysis (of past projects with similar or identical customers).
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