If you have been in business for any length of time you have probably engaged with some form of professional services firm and most likely have at least one experience where you felt let down. Achieving ROI on the project is critical initially and for any ongoing support from the services firm only.
How do you avoid a lousy professional services experience and how can you rescue a professional services project that is going bad?
Whilst there are many reasons that this can happen a few of the most common ones include
• What the sales team promised you is not what the technicians can deliver
• The professional service firm regards you as an invoice, not an ongoing client (no one will say this, but it is way too common)
• You and your team did not maximise the learning available during the project so you could be self-sustaining
• You do not see ongoing value being provided by the services firm as sufficient to justify their ongoing involvement
Let’s deal with prevention first
Business Outcomes Not Methodology
Write a specification for the project that deals in:
• Specific business outcomes
• Clear measurements to assess progress
• An estimation of business value that should be created by the project.
Why do we do this?
We do not buy professional services, we buy a business result that we think the professional services should deliver. No one buys software. People do buy something that they think makes it easier for them to control the financial performance of their business. Have all of the conversations with potential service providers based upon your business outcomes, not their methodology or software capabilities.
A second reason we do this is to ensure that the customer sees enough value to continue to be committed to the project throughout implementation. If the project is marginal, or provides a lower return than other activities then your own internal team will drift away. If the project is not that important then don’t start it!
A third reason for this up front crystallisation is to move away from a methodological and technological solution conversation, which is where the service firm is strong, and to have the conversation about your business where you are much more informed, skilled, and knowledgeable. Have the service provider discuss their offerings in YOUR context. If they cannot, they struggle then they are not the right provider, move on to someone else.
There are plenty of implementation issues that can derail a project, however an unclear, non-business focused project specification is at the top of the list.
It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time
What do you do if a project has gone off the rails?
At some point the key person of the seller shook hands with the key person of the buyer and they made a contract with each other. In a project that is not delivering, these people need to meet face-to-face and work through the gap between performance and expectations. This must be simply and clearly documented.
An agreed plan to remedy the situation must be developed. Again this must be documented. Measures on how to agree that the project is improving must be established.
Regular, weekly or daily, updates on progress must be enacted, ideally with the two key decision makers present until the project is back under control.
A War Story
A client of ours purchased some software. They were promised the software would do many things. When the technicians arrived to implement the software to the clients business they were asked about some of the wondrous things that the client was promised it could do. ‘It can’t do that, I wish they would stop saying that’ was the technician’s answer. The client had already paid for the project. The technicians beavered away to customise the software, the client spent months doing their part. The owner of the business became impatient, as the timeline had slipped. The company went ‘live’………….and could not invoice for three weeks. The owners were tired and emotional! The technicians had left the site and would not return until an additional fee was negotiated. The software providers budget for customisation was used up, but the clients business outcome was not being achieved. The client is stuck with the software and trying to make it work. The software company has an angry client who will never recommend them to anyone and will not receive anything above the bare minimum in service fees.
Everyone loses, no one wins.
Post Follow Up Support
The best way to ensure that there is ROI for post project support is to ensure that the original project works incredibly well – the value created by the post project support is clearly articulated, measurable, and agreed before you begin.