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Three Tips For Any Project


Sergej is the CEO of Amasty, one of the leading Magento extension vendors building their products and services around customers’ needs.

From my experience as an executive, mentor and coach, I believe that dealing with expectations is a key skill for an executive at any level. Expectations are all around us. Hiring an employee? Discussing an issue with stakeholders? Having a one-on-one with your direct report? All of those scenarios involve setting and sharing expectations.

This article will discuss three key tips for managing stakeholder expectations on a project.

Identifying The Stakeholders

Every project has stakeholders. These are people who can influence, or who are influenced by, the project itself.

Below are a few examples:

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• Sponsor. The person who initiated the project, defined its goals and found funding.

• Client. The person or group of people who will be receiving the completed project. This is the category that determines the formal acceptance of your project.

• Employees. The people who will interact with the results of implementing your project. They will either use what you create themselves, or they will help the end customers.

• Project team. The team executing the project. Their role, along with the budget allocated to the project, is key to project success.

• Suppliers. The manager can engage suppliers for the project in the form of using third-party services, supplying components or just contractors who will take over some of the work.

• Society. Your society can act as a direct and indirect consumer of the results of your project.

• State. Any project operates in the legal field of the state or territory in which it is created or used.

1. Many Demand But Only A Few Adopt The Project

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Each category of stakeholders is worthy of their own article. It is the manager’s responsibility to develop a set of rules to keep the focus and goals clear across all involved members. Otherwise, the project will never end, because it is impossible to please everyone.

In my opinion, the initial goal should be getting the project off the ground, so it’s important to determine who makes the decision to use it. If you are building a house, its commissioning depends not on the wishes of the sponsor and the customer but on the government agency that authorizes its use. That’s why my first rule—dividing up all the stakeholders by their influence on the completion of the project—is a great way to start off on a good note.

2. Context Trumps Primary Arrangements

When working with the requirements and constraints, the manager should always ask the question “Why?” For example, a customer insists on having an application ready by March 21 and not a day later. It is then important to ask what the problem would be if it was submitted after that date. In this example, it is uncovered that if they don’t have the application ready by that date, his license for the current software expires and he will have to pay for the next year.

The next step is to evaluate the details of each scenario and decide which is preferable:

• Spend more than the cost of the license to get the new app up and running by March 21.

• Make a basic version that will be missing some features and complete the development on time and within budget.

• Try to do the best you can and say a week before the launch that the app works, but there are critical crashes.

Perhaps after learning about all the pitfalls, the customer would not be thrilled but would be able to make a deliberate decision that minimizes the loss to his business. My second rule is to get the context of the project: make sure you understand not only what the customer needs, but also why.

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3. Predictability Is The Key To Success

Let’s analyze a real-life situation: I’m in a country where I don’t speak the language. I can only call a cab through app X because it is in English. I download the app, enter my data and fill out a form to bring the car to the desired time. The form is sent and that’s it. It’s two hours until the moment of truth. The app says the order is accepted, but nothing else happens within these two hours.

How would you act in my shoes?

• When would you begin to get nervous and wonder if a car would come for you?

• Would you have thought of a plan B?

• What would you do if there was no car at the appointed time?

For me, the lack of feedback was like a disaster. After an hour, I started googling “app X how to contact the driver” and “app X driver did not come.” After another 15 minutes, I wrote to the support email, and of course, I did not get an answer. And after another five minutes, I was already calling them and was put on a waiting list. In the end, I went to the reception of the hotel to clarify whether it was possible to arrange a transfer to the airport as soon as possible. I ended up going that route and canceled the in-app order.

Imagine that I am your customer. If you show me a list of checkpoints and inform me from time to time that everything is going according to plan, then I will be the world’s best customer. But if I don’t hear from you about how my current project is progressing, then I will overwhelm you with questions, imagining the most apocalyptic scenario for my project in my head. Hence my third rule is to be reliable and predictable and regularly inform the client about your progress on the project.

Summary

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Start your next project with three questions:

• Who will accept my project?

• What is important to them and why?

• What do they know about our plans for it?

Let your project be like a commuter bus schedule in Switzerland!


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