PM-Clinic: Week 4 Summary

Topic: Too much customer love

Compiled 10/25/2004

The Situation:

One of my responsibilities as a PM is to "own" the relationship with an internal customer. My challenge is that at least 4 other people on my team interact with the customer team (working with 4 different people on their team) at least once a week. I find it nearly impossible to stay on top of all the issues the customer is facing, and to ensure that we're delighting the customer.

How can I keep track of all of all the interaction that happens with the customer, and ensure that this is communicated effectively within the team without annoying the crap out of everyone involved? Tactical and strategic advice would be super valuable.

- Almost delighting the customer (ADC)


Devil's Advocate: Are you sure this situation requires an "owner"? What problem will the "owner" solve? Does everyone involve agree that an owner is needed, and understand how your role and responsibilities differ from theirs?

If there is really a need for this, consider the "owner" role being purely about high level direction and issue resolution. You make sure there are good clear goals that everyone is bought into, and that everyone understand's their role. Once that's set, your job is just to keep things on track, help resolve conflicts, and respond to issues raised by individuals.

Watch the politics. The other organization may have goals that are different from yours, or different cultures for how to get things done. You should be careful about assuming they want to get work done in the same way you or your org does. As the "owner" you have more resonsibility for
scouting out the poltiical landscape, and keeping it healthy.

Don't forget this is something of a blessing. It's a good thing that your organization dedicates so much attention to serving customers, and figuring out how to serve customers.

Balance of being involved and avoiding micromanagment. Ask your team members to cc you on every interaction with the customer. But let them know that 99% of the time you'll stay out of the way but that it will help you stay on top of the issues to make sure the customer is happy.

Have a weekly roll-up meeting, either by phone or in person, with the customer. Use the meeting to go over the specific list of issues they have. Make sure they 're clear that you're tracking the major issues on the list, and that you assume minor issues not on the list have been taken care of.

Consider tools. Intranet, sharepoint, wiki, etc. There are lots of cheap easy ways to allow a small group of people to share docs, status, or information about shared work. An email alias for all 9 of you might be handy - keep it on the cc line for communication that everyone involved
should see as fyis (for your information).

Consider SCRUM meetings, 10-15 minute things where everyone has to stand during the meeting. You can do this daily, and focus on deltas (changes) or blocking issues. If no major deltas or blocking issues, the meeting ends.

References and notes

  • Some of the issues that might surface will be scope issues, such as the deadline changing or feature priority changes. There should be a scope document to capture this kind of information (See Software Requirements by Wiegers)
  • Use cases can help people to frame and understand requirements. See Use cases: requirements in context by Kulak and Guiney.

This week's contributors

Neil Enns, Andrew Stellman, John Wilger, Evelien, Gretchen Hartke, Scott Berkun (editor dude)


All content copyright 2005. Scott Berkun. RSS Feed