Project Management for Government Contractors

Protect Your Program Using Best Practice #4: Serve

Posted by Kabir Mehta on Dec 22, 2017 7:00:00 AM

A Process to Get to Know & Serve Your Program's End-User

(The Fourth in our Series on Project Management Best Practices)

It may seem contradictory, but there is one scenario where greater awareness of your program can put the whole thing at risk.

As every contractor knows, most Government agencies exist in silos. In fact, each department within an agency can be a silo, resulting in a lack of communication and trust even between departments that are within the same agency.

If your Government program gets discovered at the wrong time, you might find that someone with the power of the pen from a different silo has the ability to bring your entire program and contract into question.

In the last few years, this happened to us.

project-manager-best-practices-serve.jpgGreat analogy this, but just don't over-rely on jenga blocks to help you build relationships

We currently run a program related to business intelligence and database management. We help manage data, and make that data useful for a large number of users who need mission critical information at a moment's notice.

The program was running excellently, when out-of-the-blue a director in a silo (unrelated to our customer) discovered our program and believed it to be an unnecessary expense, and began to talk to others about axing it.

Thankfully, our program manager had already been practicing the Project Management Best Practice: Serve, else the program might have been in trouble.

What is Serve, and how did it protect our program? Grab our Case Study for the details:

Download The Case Study (Key to Program Protection & Expansion)

Out of the Project Management Best Practices we've shared so far, the second and third best practices (Remind, Report) play an important part in bringing awareness to your program. But this awareness is only of a certain kind: that of the steward of your program. How often is a Government agency the actual end-user of that program?

If you're Lockheed, perhaps you're building fighter jets in contract with the DoD, while your end customer is actually the Air Force.

If you're Pfizer, perhaps you're running clinical trials of your newest Black Plague* antibiotic for the CDC, but the ultimate beneficiaries are major hospital networks. (*Yes, it is still out there wreaking havoc!)

When we refer to this Best Practice as Serve, what we mean is that you need to also know and serve your customer's customer, the end-user. Stop knowing and serving only the steward of your program, and start also knowing and serving the “king”! In other words, successful contractors work alongside their Government customer to serve the end-user.

There are three reasons why it is of vital importance to know and serve the “king”:

  • Program Awareness
  • Program Protection
  • Program Innovation & Expansion


The Way to Valuable Awareness

The end-user of the service or product you deliver, particularly those at the executive level, are the ones who will always find your program relevant. They are the ones who need your product or service, who are the willing buyer, and who ultimately care most about the quality of your product. Ultimately, through a relationship with the end-user you  gain a channel to receive feedback & discover how to make them happy.

If your program exceeds expectations, you gain two advocates: A) your Government customer, who will talk to others about the pleasure of working with you, and B) the end-user, who will be possibly more vocal about the product they appreciate and depend upon. Verifiable, enthusiastic testimonials are the most valuable kind of awareness you can have because they lead to the next two benefits.


The Way to True Program Protection

The value of high CPARs scores and a great working relationship with your Government customer cannot be overstated. This is the relationship we've encouraged you to build in the first three Project Management Best Practices. But your relationship building must go further and deeper. You need to have a relationship with all of the stakeholders in your program, especially those who are the beneficiaries.

If the end-user sings the praises of your program, you can be certain it also makes your Government customer look good. Even if those in power (in other agencies or politicians) underestimate the worth of your program, it will be protected because both your Government customer and the end-user will come to its defense in time of need.


The Way to Program Innovation & Expansion

The third reason you need to know and serve the beneficiary of your program is because this is where ideas for program innovation & expansion come from. If the end-user isn't complaining and your program is running along smoothly, your Government customer is usually happy with the status quo. Only the end-user, the one feeling the pain of their situation, can best answer these questions:

  • How can this product/service be better?
  • What do you wish it didn't do?
  • What do you wish this product/service could also do?
  • What other needs do you have that are similar to the one this program serves?

The answers to these kinds of questions will generate the knowledge you need to innovate & expand your program. These answers reveal not only what the end-user wants and needs, but what they are willing to buy.

In approaching some of our end-users, we've discovered that it sometimes only takes minor changes  to adapt our products to meet their other needs (needs that were being met by products that didn't do the job as well!). Through these relationships we've discover opportunities to help the end-users reduce cost and simplify their product mix, while expanding our program at the same time!

By knowing and serving the end-user, we also make the steward of our program (our Government customer) look very good. How? The happier the end-user is, the better feedback the Government agency will receive and the more valuable they'll be.

We're in the business of making our Government customers look good, and there is no better way to do this than by working together to serve their customers.


Remember the three major benefits to Serve & start implementing:

  • Program Awareness
  • Program Protection
  • Program Innovation & Expansion

If you want to start or better implement Serve in your own Program Management, here are two key questions for you:

  1. Is your Government agency the end-user/beneficiary of your program? If not, who is it?
  2. Who are the executives and high-level stakeholders of the end-user?

Want to start practicing Serve? Our own story is a good starting point - download & read our case study, full of practical examples. It will also share many ideas on how to effectively build a relationship with the end-user, while respecting the place your Government customer has as the steward of the program.

Download The Case Study (Key to Program Protection & Expansion)

Topics: project management best practices

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