End User

Be Sure: Involve the End User in Your Project

Each month, how many times do you purchase products or services for others?  During the yuletide season, probably quite a bit.  But, even during the rest of the year, there are plentiful opportunities to buy things that will not ultimately be used by you.  For example, if you have children, they need clothes, books, toys, and other paraphernalia you will not wear, read, or play with.  They will.  But in order to get those items in your home, the marketers know they have to meet or exceed Mom and Dad’s standards before any transaction will take place.

This is not dissimilar from the concept of an End User as a different role or person on a project from the Client.  Professionals in the Defense Industry understand this well.  For instance, although the military authorizes and funds weapons development, the people who oversee these projects are not the End Users.  The Client team is often a group of civilians who work out of a buying command located here in the United States.  They do not work in the field where the weapons are used.  Those folks – the soldiers – are the End Users.

Today I’m going to focus on the End User and his or her role vis-à-vis the project.

Project Roles

Throughout the life of the project, End Users must be consulted regarding the planned product, service, or result if the final deliverables are to gain acceptance and be used as intended.  This means they should be integrally involved from the start in scope and also requirements definition activities.  Some methods to collect this information include interviews, surveys, and Voice of the Customer Research (VOCR).  I like the way Wikipedia defines this practice:  “Voice of the customer (VOC) is a term used … to describe the in-depth process of capturing a customer’s expectations, preferences and aversions.  Specifically, the Voice of the Customer is a market research technique that produces a detailed set of customer wants and needs, organized into a hierarchical structure, and then prioritized in terms of relative importance and satisfaction with current alternatives.”  Whatever technique employed, the Seller has the obligation to ensure End Users are involved, while the End Users must ensure the requirements are complete and accurately reflect their needs.

However, involvement of the End User does not stop after detailed requirements have been collected.  Smart Project Managers involve these important stakeholders every step of the way from input into design, product testing, process verification, to final user acceptance testing.  This helps to ensure that whatever deliverable the project team provides is the product that users want versus the Client organization’s vision of what the user wants.

The Client organization may seem like a glorified middle-man in this scenario, but that is not the case.  Although it does have administrative responsibilities such as ensuring the Seller meets the contractual obligations of the project, that is not all the Client organization manages.  It still has responsibilities in the areas of Risk, Cost, Schedule, Integration, Supply Chain, and overall project management accountability for the entire project.  In many cases, the Client organization also has a certain degree of technical knowledge.  Let’s use another military example.  Soldiers may know how to launch a missile, but they may not know how to design one.  The Client organization – in addition to its cadre of supporting contractors – is the one that can provide that expertise.

Let’s wrap up this series on Project Roles with a discussion of the Auditor.  See you then.

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