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The Customer is Always Right: Tips for Working Big on a Small Budget

Product

24 October, 2018

Gaurav Anand
Gaurav Anand

Senior Growth Product Manager at SurveyMonkey

Gaurav Anand explains how he took on the challenge of completing a very large project on a small, set budget. Through this experience, he also learned about the importance of speaking directly with the customer, as opposed to a middle party, to get clear guidelines.

Problem

My team was working on a big, high priority project for a customer who had paid in advance. There were multiple parties involved, including an integration partner responsible for installation and management of the software on customer site and the actual customer. I was originally given the project requirements from our integration partners. When I started analyzing the scope of the project, I realized that the project was slowly growing from a small project to a very large due to unclear requirements from customer and integration partner. It reached the point that it was clear that we would not be able to complete the project as assigned because the volume of work was too substantial. It simply did not seem feasible given the budget under which we were working. We directly contacted the customer and learned that there were absolutely no additional resources or money that can be allocated to the project.

Actions taken

I organized a workshop with the customer. At the start of the workshop, I reiterated that we needed to focus on the problems and the things they were trying to achieve. I let the customer drive the agenda in terms of what they wanted to do, without telling them that we didn't have a large enough budget. Soon enough, it was quite clear that what the customer was looking for and what we were already planning to do were actually well aligned. By the end of the meeting, I was able to draw a clear roadmap with a timeline so everybody had a clear understanding of what work they were doing and when they had to have it completed. I agreed to follow-up with them every two weeks just to make sure we were staying on-task.

Lessons learned

The project was successful. We were even able to make money off of it. If I had to do it again, I would make sure that we speak to the customer ourselves instead of going through a third party, as that led to confusion. Also, as soon as there is a commitment from the customer, I would organize a workshop or a meeting to physically understand the requirement and get a clear outcome early in the process. Also, don't let sales get paid without understanding cost involved.

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