SI Review: January/February 2014


Straight Talk From the Customer: Great Expectations

Lack of project management a top client concern

By Erika Halverson

People ask all the time about our greatest wish of our suppliers. For me, it’s an absolutely simple but consistently overlooked skill that I want: project management. Project management resources and training are generally reserved for larger projects, i.e. a system or new program implementation. However, it’s often the medium to small projects or problems that consistently frustrate a client because they lack the very basic level of project management framework.

I’ve spoken with numerous colleagues who are tired of following up with their suppliers to see if a project or action has been addressed. We’re tired of suppliers that tout their company’s dedication to Six Sigma and project management methodology and then never actually apply these skills to our problems. We’re tired of asking for a status update only to hear it slipped someone’s mind or had not been documented, with no one claiming responsibility. We’re tired of sales teams and account managers listening sympathetically to our issues, only to have the operations teams never hear about the issue, having “the change” revert back to its original status after a few weeks. It’s incredibly frustrating, time consuming and it absolutely undercuts any other good work that the supplier has done.

Don’t Make Us Nag

I can speak for many buyers when I say we hate having to ask and re-ask whether something has been completed, whether the changes have been documented and communicated.

In an ideal world, we want to trust that you have it all wrapped up, that things are addressed appropriately and with lasting results. We want to be able to boast to our internal stakeholders that our collective teams are able to fix problems before they occur or immediately take action once identified. But we can’t. Because of this, any NPS or other survey that you send will come back negative.

I’m not asking for you to invest in formal project management tools and training, but I am asking you to stop using email threads as your “management style.” I’m asking your team to come up with a method that allows me to trust you to handle any problem or project. I’m asking that your operations team be trained to define a solution and knows how to execute it and how to communicate it. Here are the basics: Down and dirty project management:

  1. Identify the problem.
  2. Outline the potential solutions.
  3. Commit to a timeline to solve.
  4. Create task/activities and owners around its solution.
  5. Present daily, weekly or bi-monthly updates to client with progress status (depending on issue size).
  6. On-time completion & provide business documentation of solve, such as process flows (if change in process design); easy step-by-step for customers to follow; communication templates; draft message to managers, suppliers and other stakeholders about the change; add the date and version number!
  7. Communicate the change to necessary parties.

Lower and dirtier:

  • Here’s what we’re going to do (Plan)
  • Here’s how we’re going to do (Plan)
  • Here’s when we’re going to do (Plan)
  • Here’s what and how we’re doing (Status Update)
  • Here’s what we did (Closed & Documented)

The supplier that can do this consistently will be the supplier that has the best NPS or survey results. The supplier that can manage this will be the supplier that avoids an RFP or a negative reference call.

It’s the very basics, but it’s absolutely core to how clients look and evaluate their suppliers. Can I trust you to own a change and make it successful? If the answer is yes, you’ll stay our partner for a very long time.

Erika Halverson is global contingent workforce program manager at LinkedIn.


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