How to Handle Client Expectation as an Entrepreneur

We’re all sinful of sometimes hearing what we want to hear – but when it’s a client, is it their responsibility or ours? Now there’s not a lot you can do to change how other people understand information, so let’s consider the onus is on us to make sure this doesn’t occur.

We need to be clear in our communications and have something in writing to back us up, such as a Terms of Reference Scope Document, Statement of Work or Requirements Stipulation – one of the primary deliverables of the requirements research phase of a project.

However, the title of the document isn’t as important as what’s in it – and who signs it off.

In terms of content, typical headings will cover:

Business opportunity – This is the first thing a business manager will read so it needs to be consistent and communicated in business terms. If it’s a dilemma then what’s it stopping us from doing – what’s the impact on customers, on the organization and on staff?

If it’s an occasion, what will we be able to do that we can’t do now? Avoid general statements like augmented communications between departments as these types of projects are to easily canceled in tough times. Try to describe opportunity projects in terms of a problem e.g. poor communications between departments is costing us X hours per person per week in performing re-work.

Clients – Everything starts and ends with the client, they buy our products which in turn pays out wages. Government departments have customers too – the public and politicians. How will this project impact our customers?

Project patron – Who is sponsoring this project? Every project needs a sponsor – a senior manager who is behind it, who is qualified to back it and, depending upon the business culture, prepared to finance it. Sometimes the patron may not have the budget to pay for the project but will have the power to seek funding from upper management. If in doubt as to who the sponsor is, find out who’s hurting the most then work up from there.

Goals – Describe out what the project must deliver. Aim for one or two statements that succinctly and precisely say what is to be achieved. Not how it will be achieved – that’s the solution that you’re going to derive. Be careful not to have too many objectives – you can only shoot an arrow at one target. A good test of whether an objective has been met is to ask if the problem described above has been solved.

Users – Who will use the new capabilities that the project delivers? The department or teams affected need to be identified.

Stakeholders – Are there other people, departments, or outside organizations that have an interest in this project? Name them and list their contact details.

Range – Set out clearly what is included within the project scope, and what is not. This may include facilities, organizational areas or functions. Use the words ‘this project includes… ‘ and ‘this project excludes… ‘. It is a rare project where the scope is fully known at the beginning, you may have to re-visit this paragraph later.

Modesty – Set out the constraints within which the project must be conducted. The more you have of these, the more difficult your project may be to manage. However, you need to be aware of implied and assumed constraints, as well as the ‘obvious’ ones. Most constraints will be in one of three categories – time, money and functionality(quality) of the end deliverable.

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