When it comes to projects, most of us have heard of the old saying: “you can have it good, fast, cheap…but only pick two!” There’s a visual representation of this at the bottom of this piece that we really liked.
This concept has been around for a while, so why re-hash it? Many customers “understand” it, but too few of us service providers execute it correctly.
Each week, customers around the world will ask for a project to be done “quickly…and make sure it’s done right!” When service providers go to offer a quote, the customer inevitably says “that’s EXPENSIVE!”
Another example…how many of you have had a customer give you a small budget and say “get it done quick!” When you deliver something that’s put together with duct tape and spit, the customer cries “this isn’t done well!”
There are two real challenges with the ‘project triangle’ that we as service providers can improve upon:
1. Value Assignment. Clients rarely assign a true value to the project.
2. Expectation Setting. Too often, providers don’t set expectations up front.
Let’s talk about these in more detail.
The initial, critical requirement in a project kickoff is determining which two of the three components in the project triangle are to be selected. We start that conversation off by discussing value assignment. A customer who wants something “good, fast and cheap” may not have defined the value of the project. Worse, it may indicate that the customer places very little value to the project.
This value assignment conversation rests on a provider’s shoulder. We must guide customers to assigning proper value to the project. If it’s high value and time critical, we pick fast and good…which means the customer can’t pick “cheap.” Perhaps we uncover that the project is critical but low overall value? Good and cheap work, but the customer can’t have fast.
As a service provider, we’re experts in how various IT projects can impact an organization. We must work with our customers prior to project launch to define the impact the project will have on their organization and then assign value.
Once a reasonable value assignment has been established, the customer quickly understands which two of the three components in the project triangle should be chosen.
We’re taught in sales and marketing to always say “yes.” And that the customer is always right. These are dangerous philosophies without context. A customer saying “I want this done good fast and cheap…” isn’t right. Our job is to not only guide them to a better understanding of the project but to then define expectations upfront.
Why don’t we do this? One big reason: we’re afraid. It’s a hyper-competitive market and if we don’t say “yes” right away, the client may go somewhere else. It’s a valid fear, however, getting a customer at any cost is not the same value as getting the right customer.
A customer that wants it “good, fast and cheap” and can’t be guided to a new understanding…isn’t a customer you want. That customer isn’t one that you’re going to reap value from. They aren’t a customer that you’ll be able to create value with. You can’t deliver a project that’s good, fast and cheap and stay in business…nor maintain a good reputation.
We must set the expectation up front that we can deliver well upon two of the three outcomes. This will earn you a better reputation…even if a few bad (potential) customers walk away.
We must set these expectations prior to project launch. And everyone must agree. Delivering a project fast and good but then sending an expensive invoice that the customer isn’t expecting? Will not end well. The time for expectation setting is at the kickoff point, not the mid-point and never at project completion.
Prior to a project launch, we have to help the customer define the value of the project. We must begin to help the customer understand that selecting two of the three options is based upon the requirements of the project. This decision is based on real criteria not hopeful wishing that something good can be done fast and cheap. Finally, as part of the project kickoff, you have to set the expectation on delivery. Once we get these two challenges out of the way, the project will run much more smoothly.
And that’s going to make everyone happy!