In school I hated to turn anything in misspelled or with handwriting that didn’t look how I wanted it to look. I took me a long time to ever start using pens because I always wanted to be able to erase and correct. Ok, I may have been a little OCD about that. Even with my articles, I run them through spell checkers first – though that doesn’t catch a correctly spelled word that may be out of place or out of context. I try to re-read everything, but sometimes things slip through.
But when we’re turning in documents - that are actually deliverables on a project - to our customer, we need to consider what they’re seeing and what message we’re sending them with the quality of our output. Do we want to come across as educated, professional, and caring of our work? Or do we want to give the customer the impression that we’re sloppy with these early project deliverables? If we’re sloppy with these deliverables, what do you think the customer will assume about the rest of our work as we build a detailed, complex software solution for them. Will they be concerned…possibly anxious? Yes, definitely. And rightly so.
Proof and Test
Extreme care needs to go into our project deliverables. Proof, proof, proof. Test, test, test. When you hand a deliverable over to the customer – unless it’s understood that this is an early draft – then you’re telling the customer that this is done and the best I can do. It better be correct. It better be accurate and read well. And it better be free of simple typos – there are no excuses for these. The best solution I’ve found is to incorporate a peer review for every piece of documentation that goes to the customer. It works, it ensures accountability, and there’s no way that the use of “they’re” instead of “their” will get past five sets of eyes, is there?
I personally made a huge mistake on one project that I was running. This was before I incorporated the process of peer reviews for all outgoing documentation. Actually, this example is the reason I began to incorporate the peer reviews.
I had not one, but two business analysts working on one of my software implementation projects for a major airline. I wrongly assumed they were following my instructions and working together – proofing the documents they were working on and turning error-free work into me to go to the customer. Three iterations later on the Business Requirements Document (BRD) and I realized I had a lot of egg on my face and a lot of ground to make up with our customer. What had been a happy, confident, and satisfied customer before had now turned into a very nervous and frustrated customer just as we were ready to begin developing the actual solution.
Peer review everything
It wasn’t until we started incorporating peer reviews for every single deliverable that went to the customer that we started handing over error-free documents. We conducted peer reviews on the BRD (finally), the Functional Design Document, the Test Plan, and every piece of information that went to the customer in written (or electronic) form from that point on and we got it right. I even had the full team review the status reports, weekly status meeting notes, revised project schedule, and issues/risks lists before sending them off to the customer in order to ensure that the customer did not see any more incorrect and unprofessional submissions from our team.
On the delivery side we make a lot of assumptions that can be dangerous when we look at things from the customer’s perspective. We take for granted that everyone is doing their job – and doing it well. We assume that when someone turns in work that they’ve proofed it a couple of times and that they care about it as much as we do.
Now, we put ourselves in the role of the paying customer and we tend to not take too much for granted. Instead, we’re actively looking for those errors. We’re looking for the scratches on the new refrigerator we bought (metaphorically speaking), aren’t we? We want our money’s worth. That’s the customer’s perspective. And every time we deliver a product with a dent in it then we have a new dent in our reputation. Don’t let it happen. Take the care to review what you turn over to the customer. You won’t be sorry.