By Sheila Roberts

When starting any project or programme we need to understand what is needed to be successful. One belief is that if a working product is delivered on time and cost, the project has succeeded.

A business case has a deliverable providing a solution to the reason the project is needed and shows benefits. A picture of ‘what does good look like’ helps everyone to have a shared vision. Then we start to think about measuring the level of success and we have many options. This can be very diverse from the delivery of a working product through to achieving a high target ROI.

If we look at the real benefits they are the perceptions of our customers or clients. In a commercial environment the customers vote with their feet, generally. In the public sector clients complain, opt out or post on social media. In the end it is our customers and clients that determine the long term viability of the organisation. If our benefits are to benefit the organisation they must benefit the customer.

In the Managing Benefits book by Stephen Jenner the concept of value chains is discussed which identifies the customers as central to success. The Agile Manifesto also puts delivery of customer value as a top priority.

This would lead to the logical conclusion that project or programme benefits need to deliver for customers. This includes internal projects, such as IT upgrades where the customers are the users. If we do this, how will it feed through to enhance the customer experience or perception? If we do not do it how would it impact? If we develop a new product how will we include user requirements and feedback in the specification, development and testing of the product.

Our customers can be our greatest promoters or our greatest detractors. As a small company we know this to be true as the majority of our customers come to us by word of mouth. We do not advertise on the internet or in magazines but we do have some household names as customers. This is by ensuring we keep our customers at the heart of what we do. This should follow through to every project.

Although it is an Agile Manifesto principle it should not be limited to agile projects. All projects should not only identify the benefits but link them to the customer value being enhanced. If we are going to save money by reducing branches of the organisation how will our customers feel they have a better service? If we are going to develop a new washing machine with more features will our customers want to use them? If we are going to create new software what will be available which is not currently?

In measuring success we need to find measures which not only check whether the product or service has been delivered as specified but also whether our customers and clients feel it has enhanced their experience.

This can be measured by the number of sales, the number of returns, the number of compliments /complaints or the number of referrals.

There are many ways in which our customers tell us how they feel. It us up to us to remember to use some of these and keep the customer at the heart of what we do. Whatever method the project is using we should keep the customer or client at the centre. It does not mean ‘gold plating’ our projects but delivering to add value