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As a Consumer and Customer in the marketplace, you make purchases based on requirements – on your needs.  “I just tore the sleeve on my suit – better go out and by a new one.”  You also have expectations of the product as well, which you don’t necessarily think about when you are out shopping. “I will be able to raise and wave my arms to catch somebody’s attention and the stitching in the sleeve will hold and not split.”  An expectation yes, a requirement really, but as I said probably not something you think about. (Ok, you’re probably going to try that test the next suit you buy, so here’s another – squat down to ensure the waist and seat are comfortable when assuming this position – and that the slacks do not split).

Gathering requirements from customers on a project is likely welded into your methodology. But what about EXPECTATIONS?

What is the value in extracting expectations? the risk in not? Customers will have expectations,  very likely uncommunicated needs (so far) for the product or service you are asked to produce.  I challenge you to draw out those expectations, and turn them into requirements. After the formal requirements gathering process is completed, politely ask the Customers assembled before your “We’ve documented requirements, are there any expectations you have of what we are producing for you?” And the expectations will surface, features the Customer just, well, naturally expected to be there. And after you have recorded them on the flipchart, politely mention to the Customer, “These are great. They really sound like requirements though. Do you mind if we add it to the list of requirements and process accordingly?” Follow your process for managing requirements – the expectations are not delivered for free. If the Customer expects to see those capabilities in what you are building, they must be prepared to pay for them, in terms of both Cost and Time.

I can hear some naysayers now – “Scope Creep, Scope Creep”.  This is not scope creep – this is MANAGING EXPECTATIONS.  Otherwise, you may not deliver what the customer … well, expected –  requirements plus expectations. If the customer expects to see it, it must be evaluated, prioritized and funded if it is to be.

And then you can give yourself a pat on the back – because you identified these expectations early up front, and were not surprised by the Customer months laters at the Acceptance meeting.

Happy Holidays and all the best for the New Year! This will be our last post for the year, we’re taking some time off, see you in a few weeks in 2010!

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