A Process to Turn Your Interim Progress Report into a Golden Opportunity
(The Third in our Series on Project Management Best Practices)
In recent years we've heard the following phrase from Government Officers: "You know, there's no value in attending IPRs anymore."
More interesting is when they said it: after leaving in the middle of a company's IPR presentation (and not long after they had stayed for the entirety of our own).
Why would they say this to us, without fear of being offensive?
Because they didn't see our presentation a your business-as-usual IPR.
In fact, they didn’t see our presentation as an IPR at all, even though that’s exactly what it was. How did we accomplish this, and how can you do the same?
When was the last time the audience attending your IPR was this happy?
- Since when does your IPR have to be a mere relation of dry facts and figures?
- Since when is it not allowed for your IPR not be as inspirational as a TED talk, or as anticipated as Apple's yearly iPhone announcements?*
- Why is it common for Government Officers to find them generally unhelpful?
Forget everything you've associated with IPRs and build your presentation from the ground up.
IPRs were created to help the Government fix struggling programs. The requirement to provide the report assumes that you as the contractor are doing poorly, and it's an opportunity for the Government to formally grill you (and if appropriate, hand out the dunce cap).
IPR presentations tend to go like this: the Program Manager from the Government Department stands in front and says, “The contract says X, Y, and Z must be done, and the contractor completed X, and Z, (and perhaps Y has a problem).”
Or if the contractor knows how to take charge, they start reading their slide deck in a monotone voice, showing their audience what the requirements of the contract are and how each requirement was fulfilled. This is the reason we hear, “Attending IPRs has no value anymore.”
How do you both meet the requirement to report to your customer and the Agency directors, while also inspiring them and giving them a reason to enjoy being there?
While there are certain principles to follow to achieve a successful IPR presentation, it actually starts before you plan the presentation. The first principle of a successful IPR presentation starts with the approach your company takes in contract fulfillment and delivery.
Most contractors see program requirements as an ending point – hit those requirements and you're doing your job and the customer will be satisfied. If that is the company culture for program delivery in which you find yourself, then that is what you will be able to say in your IPR: “The contract said for us to do X, so we did X.” If you deliver a program that aims to reach the status quo, you can expect a status quo level of approval from your customer.
To deliver an IPR that:
- Stands out
- Isn't associated with hum-drum/status quo IPRs
- Government Officers look forward to hearing
- And builds relationships with Government tech leads, PMs, and COTRS
Then you need to start with how your company approaches program management.
So what is the approach that will turn hum-drum IPR presentations into your moment to shine?
Let's answer that with a list of a principles/practices that we use in our approach to contract fulfillment. These things make it not only easier to deliver a better program, but naturally lead to an IPR presentation that inspires.
3 Principles & Practices in Government Contract Fulfillment
1. Contract requirements are only a starting point
What the contract says to do is only a minimum acceptable requirement – if the IPR asks you to report how many hits were on the website each day, your IPR should report how many hits per day, by date, time, and location. Many contractors simply meet project tasks and reporting at the contract requirements – this isn’t you. You start at the requirements, exceed them, and by this demonstrate to your customer that you care more about the program then they do. Only excellence will create excitement.
Imagine this: you're delivering your presentation and pull up a slide that gives an overview of Task A in your project. Now instead of telling your customer, “We completed Task A,” you can say, “We did Task A of course, but now look at what we also did...” Suddenly, you've got their attention. They are all ears to hear about the innovation or problem solving you accomplished.
2. Know the end-user of your program (your customer's customer)
Build a relationship with the executives of the end-users, those who benefit from your program. Always be in communication with them, asking them how the program can be improved.
We're writing a more thorough article on this topic, because the benefits of knowing & serving your customer's customer cannot be understated. However, the best ideas for innovation or problem solving in your program are going to often come from those that benefit from it. In between IPRs your job is to discover weaknesses & opportunities in your program, plan developments & improvements, and write the story as you go along – which leads to the next practice:
3. Keep a record of project progress
If you are using the other Project Management best practices already (communicate and remind), you will already be on top of your program's accomplishments, problems, and opportunities. If you keep in mind and record the story of your program (problems faced and overcome, innovations discovered and implemented, etc), delivering your IPR will be as easy as telling that story. Your audience will find it as easy to listen to and to enjoy, as well.
What easier way to keep a record of your project progress all along than with a Weekly Status Report! By using this process, you will automatically have more interesting content to share with your customer.
Results of this Approach to Government Contract Fulfillment
What are the results of following these practices throughout the year, which turn your IPR presentation into a golden opportunity?
- Your audience will be engaged with your presentation
- You will attract attendees from other departments or agencies
- Your audience will remember and talk about you
- You will build a reputation as a quality contractor
- You will build relationships with the exact people who can give you more business
This last benefit—building solid relationships with Government officials—can also turn your IPRs from a chance for Government representatives to scrutinize you as a “the failing contractor they have to fix”, to a moment where you turn your evaluators into collaborators, working as a team to discuss the program and resolve issues. Good IPRs build relationships with your customers—that is the result we aim for, and is the reason Report is the third of the Four Best Practices to delight your customer.
Here are some quotes we've received from Government customers after hearing our presentations. You can get the same:
"This is the best prepared IPR I've ever seen."
"I want to go to their (Synergetics') IPR - I know I'm going see new stuff and want to know what they have to say.”
Delivering Your IPR Presentation
No matter how well you manage your program throughout the year, if you can't also nail your actual presentation, your customers might literally walk out of the room before they hear of all the great work you're doing for them.
So the logical question is, how do you actually deliver your presentation?
Can we make the presentation part easier for you?
Yes, we can - and we've created a handy tool for you:
Go here and download it. As you are preparing your presentation, follow the checklist. If you're already using the principles/practices we've shared about how to approach your program and contracting as a whole, the checklist will make it easy to deliver an IPR that builds your company's reputation and eventually brings significant returns.
*No seriously; how is the announcement of a new iPhone more exciting than the innovations and plans you are delivering for their program? It isn't. Excitement comes from how much effort you put into program improvement and the story you tell about it.