In my previous posts, I explained some of the key beliefs of the ORDER Methodology and provided some detail about the first step; the Opportunity qualification. The steps in that methodology is shown by this diagram:
In this post, I’m going to focus on the second step: the qualification of resources.
There is no getting away from it, you can’t help someone succeed without sufficient time, people and money. These resource constraints form a triangle whose area can be thought of as the scope. The area is constant, so the quantities of time, people or money cannot flex without each impacting the other. For example, if the timescale needs to reduce then people available and costs (budget) must increase.
We need to establish if there is an overlap in ours and the clients thinking regarding the quantity of each of these that will be available in order for the project to be successful. If that is not immediately obvious, then we have encountered a yellow light, a concept I introduced in Part 2 of this series, and we need to change that light to green (proceed) or red (amicably agree to part ways).
We can start the time scale discussion with some easy questions such as “When would you like to see your solution delivered by?” or “What kind of timeframe are we working to?”. We are not trying to close the deal, we are still in qualification mode and the answers to these questions continue to help establish feasibility.
We need to have in mind already our own idea of the timescale necessary to deliver the project that we have qualified in the previous step. All through that process we will have been totalling up the effort needed – just a rough order of magnitude and that now comes in to play against the client answers regarding time. Yellow lights may include that the timing is too soon, that the timing is too far in to the future or that the timing is undefined.
If the timescale is too far in to the future and we have done our job in the opportunity qualification phase, we will be able to clarify the timing by associating current costs against time to deliver. If the timing is too soon, then we may need to establish what the drivers are; political, budgetary, or other external influences.
Establishing a common overlap in timescale expectation is important for the success of the project so this is a very important step in our qualification exercise.
It is important to ensure that the client is able to commit the necessary resources to the project. That may be as simple as establishing a point of contact who will be available to talk to when needed, or it might be establishing an in-house development team who will be part of the project delivery team. If there are people within the organisation who are critical to the success of the project, they need to be identified and assurance needs to be given that they will be available when they are needed. If there is a critical individual, it is highly likely that they are critical elsewhere in the organisation, so care needs to be taken to establish this individuals availability.
Equally, some clients may feel that they want or need to be more involved than you would like! They may even insist that they do critical parts of the initiative themselves which could put the timeline at risk if they are delayed due to availability issues.
It is important to establish these boundaries with the client so that expectations are managed in this regard. If you enter in to project delivery without this demarcation of roles and responsibilities it is inevitable that you will quickly have to resolve this. It is best to be up front and gain a mutual level of understanding during this qualification period.
In my experience, people are not very comfortable when it comes to talking about money. There are a few individuals out there who are, but then they can become so focused on this that it can be seen to be a real barrier to a successful relationship. One thing that I have learnt is that it is not OK for the first money discussion to take place after the client has received your Statement of Work or Work Order and they have seen your price for the first time (typically resulting in a gravity assisted exit from a position of comfort!).
When we are qualifying resources and we are talking about money, we are actually talking about the value justification. We need to establish if there is an overlap in how much the client is willing to invest in order to have their issue resolved and how much we think it will cost to deliver that solution. Again, as we have been discussing the opportunity, we have been establish a rough order of magnitude for cost and these conversations now need to see whether there is agreement in that area.Our intent is to figure out if we and the client are heading in the same direction and if we should continue the conversation. it is best to find this out now and avoid wasting each others time in the future. We all agree that there is a price below which we would question quality and above which we would question benefit over cost. The client has that range in their head and we are trying to establish if there is an overlap in the range that we also have in mind.
In the next part of this series I will focus on qualifying decisions and look at the decision process.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about this process, or on the back of this feel that there is value in having a more comprehensive conversation with us, please get in touch through firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you.
The reference for this material is “Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play”: Transforming the buyer/seller relationship by Mahan Khalsa and Randy Illig available from Amazon here.