Knowing your customer and their business is essential in successful project management. This means you can communicate with contextual accuracy about the customers business. Communication with a richness beyond the simple understanding of terminology. This contextual accuracy is one of the elements that builds trust with the customer.
For exceptional performance it is not enough to be a PMP and a skilled project manager. Exceptional performance is enabled when you respect the customers perspective to the degree you have made a significant investment in establishing and maintaining that perspective.
In my project management travels I have encountered extremes in regard to understanding the customer’s perspective. Some project managers are not even allowed to communicate directly with the customer. Some don’t even know who the “real” customer is.
This lack of customer perspective is contrasted with project managers who are actually embedded in the customer’s organization. Instead of just talking or meeting with the customer they essentially live with the customer, so they have first hand understanding of the customer’s environment and challenges. Somewhere between not even knowing who the customer is and living with the customer, a conscious decision must be made to make the investment to ensure contextual accuracy or accept the risks of the lack of it. Leaders can’t have it both ways.
Every organization should make a strategic decision regarding how they will ensure project managers will have contextual accuracy of the customer’s perspective.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Kathy Ericsson, Director, Project Management World Wide Operations for Citrix. My visit with her revealed a number of best practices that I will be sharing in the near future. The leadership in Business Technology Solutions and World Wide Operations require the project managers to be certified on Citrix products. Not a cursory knowledge… or overview knowledge… but certified! Think about the ramifications of this from the customer’s perspective. What does it say about the organization’s commitment to meeting the customer’s needs at the highest level?
It seems every leader and organization says "they value the customer’s perspective." You already know whether your leader or organization is just speaking hollow words or whether a real investment has been made. If your organization doesn’t make a real commitment, I encourage you to go the extra mile and make it as an individual. The dividends far outweigh the cost.