A key hallmark of a world-class Professional Services organization is the customer experience it provides. That’s why the best service providers will ask customers to rate their performance and then follow through on that feedback. They want to continuously fine tune their service delivery models to improve project outcomes and ensure customers are fully satisfied with project outcomes. If there is a customer-facing issue, chances are that changes may need to be made behind the scenes to improve planning and communications, either among the implementation team, with the customer, or both. Perhaps a product or solution change is required and fast action is now needed to both resolve the present issue and avert similar setbacks in the future. Customer feedback might also indicate the need to adjust the overall service delivery strategy and approach on either a project basis or larger program scale. That’s where a Program Management Office (PMO), such as mine, comes in.
What It Takes to Perfectly Orchestrate a Technology Solution Implementation
Though I now lead the PMO for Zebra’s Professional Services team, I am an engineer by trade. I spent many years overseeing software and firmware implementations before moving into customer advocacy and project management roles. One thing I’ve learned in these many different roles is that project managers are a lot like the ‘maestro’ in a classical music concert. The maestro directs the musicians (i.e. engineers, sales team members and other integrators) to ensure they play in harmony from start to finish. The result is pleasant to the ears (especially for front-line workers), and attendees (i.e., our customers) enjoy the show. This encourages attendees to invite more people to watch it (or in this case, become a referencable customer).
Now, the PMO and project managers aren’t exclusively responsible for customer satisfaction. However, they are the ones charged with leading a continual improvement program. They are the ones who must ensure their organizations adopt best practices at the global and regional levels to provide the best customer experience possible.
Though each organization is different, it is important that the PMO ensures alignment of internal practices with external benchmarks. This will make it easier to incorporate the right assets, technologies, and quality attributes into operational processes, methodologies and tools – which is critically important considering how challenging it actually is to coordinate and direct technology implementations.
When you take into consideration the amount of people that must participate in one project to drive it to completion, or when you think about the planning needed to deliver on time and achieve the desired outcome, you realize that effective program and project management – both behind the scenes and on the front lines – is crucial to achieving the right result in the right time. The project manager is the one who is ultimately responsible for delivering the highest level of customer satisfaction, garnering the customer’s trust and laying the foundation for a long-term relationship with Zebra.
Now, I’m sure you want to know the secret sauce for a perfect project implementation. So, let me share some of the best practices, processes and procedures our project managers employ within Zebra’s Professional Services organization to ensure the right assets and technologies are leveraged and help maintain accountability among all stakeholders. These are the ways in which we prioritize quality behind the scenes to deliver an excellent service experience and improve the quality of front-line results, no matter the type of technology being deployed, the complexity of the solution or the scale of implementation:
- Establish a framework by which you deliver, govern, and onboard. Defining the right process for each project is vital, as is the creation and distribution of a highly detailed scope of work. You can start with templatized guidelines and then tailor accordingly. Make sure you define, communicate and stick to strict timelines and due dates. This will help ensure high-quality handovers between each department and individuals participating in the project in any capacity – both on the solution/service provider side and within the customer organization.
Like everything in life, you must also set up milestones that allow you to monitor progress and confirm you’re still going in the right direction. Dashboards and regular cadence reviews will be critical to this type of project tracking. Just ensure all parties have access to them. This is key to setting expectations, maintaining accountability and proactively mitigating risks that could delay certain actions or otherwise hinder project execution.
· Communicate, communicate, communicate. Gather internal project team members regularly to review plans and progress. Conduct discovery workshops, planning sessions, design collaborations, site visits, and project reviews with the customer. And communicate with everyone regularly. There is no such thing as overcommunication when it comes to project management. Don’t leave room for misunderstandings or oversights. Confirm – and reconfirm – that everyone within the Professional Services organization and customer organization understands roles, timelines, goals, and deliverables. Encourage people to ask questions and don’t be afraid to send frequent status updates along with detailed reminders about next steps.
· Choose the right project management tools and leverage them to the fullest extent. At Zebra, we use a Professional Services Automation (PSA) tool which interfaces to other systems such as our customer relationship management (CRM) platform and other business tools. Together, this suite of tools is the one-stop-shop that helps us easily facilitate our business, specifically as it relates to:
o bid and quote management
o project planning
o project execution
o resource capability and capacity planning
o project administration including booking, billing, and project financials
o project and portfolio reporting
We also use this technology to facilitate remote service delivery and remain highly coordinated with geographically disperse teams. It gives everyone visibility into the same data sets and allows for an aggregate view of project progress.
· Make “Talent Excellence” the top priority when convening the project team. This is the ace under my sleeve. People are your most valuable asset. Leverage all your internal tools of communication to solicit ideas during the discovery and planning phases and verify that all best practices are being taken into account during the implementation and optimization phases. Leverage both internal and external resources to address different geographical needs (when applicable). Promote training and compliance on tools and processes. And keep communication channels open to gather feedback and build a collaborative community.
· Utilize phase gates to better monitor and control service delivery – while there’s still time to correct course. Most of our Professional Services projects are segmented into four phases: scope, plan and design, delivery, and review. Before we move from one to the next, we pause to review that all goals have been met and that the customer is fully satisfied. This helps reduce the risk of oversights and facilitate smooth, successful solution delivery. If there is an issue, the gate stays ‘closed’ until there’s mutual agreement on how to best move forward.
A Final Thought
You can either leverage these insights to benchmark service providers’ capabilities when soliciting project support, prepare your internal team for project success, or better support your customers as a solution/service provider. Just know that the effort put forth behind the scenes by the solution/service provider is just as influential on project outcomes as what actually happens on site during the implementation. Without the proper project planning, coordination and service delivery, it will be difficult to extract maximum value from the solution.
If you want glowing customer reviews – and repeat business – solicit customer feedback at frequent intervals. More importantly, welcome constructive criticism with enthusiasm and make adjustments to your methodology as needed. Continual improvement is not a concept exclusive to hardware or software design. Service innovation is just as essential to solution performance and customer satisfaction (with both your people and products).
To learn more about what the best practices and tools Zebra’s Professional Services team uses behind the scenes to support customers and help ensure success on the front lines, visit our website or schedule a call with one of our PMO team members.