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Why customer satisfaction is your most important project metric

Colin Ellis | March 20, 2015
Nothing matters quite as much as making sure your customers are happy, says Colin Ellis.

customer satisfaction

I was recently hired by a CIO who had a problem with the organisation sidestepping the IT team to deliver key projects. The business "was going around us for their project delivery," the CIO told me.

The obvious question in this scenario is "why are they so dissatisfied with the service you provide that they would do this?" The answer, rather disconcertingly on this occasion, was: "They don't get the way we do projects."

I spent some time reviewing their project portfolio of which 11 of their 12 projects were considered to be 'off-track'.

Their measures related to this were aligned to a percentage variation (at a point in time) to the traditional triple constraints triangle of time, cost and quality. One side of the triangle can't be changed with affecting the others.

I've drawn it many times for my project sponsors to illustrate the tensions that are created when each new scope is added to a project. If you add scope, then you need more time and more money. If you reduce the time, it'll impact scope and will likely cost more money and so on.

When heading up project departments, I've always ensured that we have metrics to ensure that projects are delivered on time and on budget. Quality is included almost as an afterthought.

CEOs, CIOs and CFOs often insist that hitting 'budget and time targets' is the benchmark for successful project delivery. 'Traffic light' reports produced by project managers reflect the status of these measures.

These measures are almost always behind and we use change control as a mechanism to reset the targets so that our report shows a 'green light' again.

Simple right? Wrong. If the customer is dissatisfied, then every aspect of your project should be marked with a red light. Scarlett red. Possibly even flashing red to ensure that it isn't missed by anyone, ever.

But this isn't a metric that's assessed or reported on, except of course when it's too late. Picture this similar scenario. You and your partner decide to go out for a meal. You plan the date, set your budget and research a good place to eat.

When you get to the restaurant, they keep you waiting longer than you should, the food doesn't taste as nice as you thought and the meal costs more than advertised.

What opinion do you have at the end? You're annoyed right? You feel a sense of injustice; you tell your friends; you leave an online review (if you haven't already left it verbally at the restaurant); and never go back again.

And yet with a little more focus on the customer, the experience could have been so much more different. When you arrived, if you had been told that there had been a price increase and that the food may take longer as they were really busy, then immediately your expectations would have changed and you would have a decision to make.


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