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10 Keys to Completion
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10 keys to Completion
10 ideas that rescued ugly projects
10 ways IT consulting has changed

Idea #1
Educate. What do you do when you find out 20% of your staff is going to be unbillable in 2 weeks? Educate! In the winter of 1995, I learned that 20% of my staff was going to be on the bench in 10 days. Fortunately, we had a practice of educating everyone to understand sales.

 During our weekly meeting I handed out calculators and a sheet of paper that defined how to calculate personal margin. I then had everyone calculate theirs. Once everyone knew how they affected the bottom line, I explained the situation.

 We started a "New Accounts Club" and within 6 weeks, the entire group was billable, we acquired two new clients, and we did not have to lay anyone off. What do your people need to know?

Idea #2
Do your homework. Take the time to get the details. Not having hard data can lead to solving the wrong problem. For two years I was told my margins were not high enough. I blindly accepted this and increased my margins by adding value and promoting people into new categories. This increased my margins, but did not increase the corporate bottom line.

 So I did some analysis. It turned out there was money being put into projects outside of my control that were destroying our bottom line. After I defined the real situation and developed a course of action, I was asked to complete these projects and stop the outpouring of money. That was the key. Are you really seeing your data?

A goal without a deadline
is a dream.

Idea #3
Plan. Ever notice that in large projects, people seem to forget the objective? In 1994 we were asked to write software to convert a large system from an HP platform to an AS/400 ON TIME. 

Others had tried and failed.

 We put together a plan which was approved by everyone on the team. The plan was reviewed in weekly meetings and adjustments were made where necessary. As a result, we were the first team to successfully have the conversion software done on time and within budget. What does your plan look like?

Idea #4
Listen and take notes. There are four parts to communicating: Reading, writing, speaking, and listening. In 1995 we were asked to take over a project that was not going well. The customer had lost faith in the project team.

 In one of our first meetings, the customer spent the majority of the time screaming that the system was broken and it was the development team's fault. We took notes and listened patiently. Toward the end of this interaction, the meeting was interrupted by one of their technical staff saying that the problem was due to a hardware error and had nothing to do with current work. Although nothing was said at the time, we were never yelled at again and the project completed successfully. Are you patiently listening to your customer?

Idea #5
Define parameters. In 1992 I inherited a group of programmers who thought programming was more important than the customer. If we were going to succeed, we needed a paradigm shift. I developed two documents: the Code of Conduct and Crossman's Theory of Leadership. These documents defined how to treat the customer and why the customer was "never wrong." As a result, the majority of the programmers changed their attitude within a week, those who could not change left, and we acquired a reputation for customer service that could not be beat. How do you teach your people to behave?

Idea #6
Smile. By the time we were brought into one project, enough deadlines had been missed that the customer no longer believed anything would ever be completed. My request of our project manager was to complete the projects, smile, and cheerfully greet everyone on the project and client teams every day.

 Within two months we received kudos from the customer for the work we were doing. When the project was complete, the client told me she thought our project manager was the most gregarious person she ever worked with and asked to sign an ongoing maintenance agreement. When is the last time you smiled?

Idea #7
Put it in writing. If an idea or agreement is not in writing it does not exist. In 1993 I worked for a computer consulting firm that was on shaky ground with their largest client. After 10 years of working with the client, the client still did not understand the value of the work being performed. I began putting everything the account team did in writing. Two years and a forest later, I negotiated a 3 year, 12 million dollar contract with the client. Are you putting the right things in writing?

Idea #8
Teamwork. Extraordinary customer service requires teamwork. There is only so much one person alone can do for a client. In 1994 I read "The Winner Within" by Pat Riley, coach of the Los Angeles Lakers during the championship years. Riley says it is a sense of "mission" that will bring people together as a team. 

Our company had reached a stagnant point in its growth and mentality. We created a mission "to be the number one provider of information services for our customers." With this mission in mind, people who had been doing great work individually began to do great work together. 

Within one year our cheerful teamwork created an advantage for our customers by reducing duplication, getting more done with less, and providing a service that made their life easier-and we significantly increased the amount of work we did. What is your mission?

Idea #9
Tell stories. In 1994, I was asked to fix an aggravating problem. We had one junior resource working on an out-of-control project that was being managed by a client representative. There was no written project plan. Our junior programmer was burning out and the project had little hope of ever being completed. How were we going to tell the client manager the project was late because they had not done the written plan?

 After extensive consideration I wrote one page about another project that had gotten into terminal trouble and then listed the planning documentation that saved it. Within a week the project manager had a plan in place. Read any good stories recently?

Idea #10
Sing. In May of 1995, I was asked to complete a project that no one else could get "done". The project was planned for two months, had already taken 6 months and the technicians had decided that it would take at least 4-6 more months of sophisticated C coding and research to see if "current technology" could do what the customer wanted. I felt we could get 90% of the functionality in one month using advanced Word Perfect macros.

 I put together a "done team" of a project manager and a good programmer who had great customer skills. I told everyone that we were going to sing the "done song" every day until the project was complete...which we did. Three weeks later development was completed using WordPerfect macros and Foxpro. Do you want to learn the "Done Song?"

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