Signing up for the business result
by Niall Fitzpatrick
Recently I watched a movie called “Jiro Dreams of Sushi”. Check it out if you can it’s really good. It reminded me of how important it is to be passionate about what you do and never take your eye off the result. I like to think the work we do as Acquian’s - with the help of partners - results in epic business outcomes for our clients. My role in professional services, working with clients, can be both demanding and rewarding. A core aspect of my role is ensure not just delivery, but delivery excellence, and that what we do makes a difference. When teams approach a project by the letter of the contract it can become more about the project and less about, well, the success of the project. The subtle difference in focus is dramatic.
Quantify the Metrics. Focusing on the business results makes projects more about partnership and less about numbers, deadlines, margins, and dates. It pulls the team out of the code weeds and into contextual discussions that center on the goal - how the application of Drupal can positively impact the business. For sure we still have to run healthy projects, hit targets committed to, and get the job done. But if we’re going to focus on the business result we benefit from understanding the quantifiable metrics and their impact on the overall value to the business. Do it early enough in the pre-sales process and it leads to a much stronger relationship overall.
In my experience (and I am sadly noticing way too many a grey hair lately) successful projects best start with this common grounding. At Acquia, for example, I make it a practice that we kick off our new projects by addressing the success metrics. It may sound obvious - maybe even a bit fluffy - but it's a step often overlooked. These metrics should be tangible ‘guiding principles’ that will direct the team as we navigate the sea of decisions that crop up like how to address a new requirement, a schedule change, a re-prioritization of development sprints, and the definition of completion of certain deliverables.
Coincidentally I’m about halfway through a great (did I say great?) sales book called “Let’s get real or Let’s not play” by Mahan Khalsa and Randy Illig, which sports an awesome chapter on the subject of gathering metrics. I won’t spoil the riveting read for you, but I will say it provides a very smart approach to drilling into metrics until they are fundamentally measurable. Gather no more than 5-8 key metrics, and make them impactful. If there’s no measure it’s probably not worth calling a metric. And track them on a shared dashboard for all to see, accessible to the entire team; a great way to calibrate against new and or changing goals.
Ingredients for Success. Every so often - except on the mythical perfect projects - we’re challenged to determine if a decision, direction, or re-prioritization of activity is the right course of action. And while metrics are critical, they still only go so far. Eric Reis, in his book ‘The Lean Startup,’ talks a lot about the trap of “vanity metrics” and how they won’t help us when we need help most. Metrics need to be quantifiable, relevant, and front and center. But all that is in vain with the absence of commitment to the partnership. When I approach a project my mantra is one of both collaboration and partnership. It’s about driving for results together, with the focus on the business goal not just the deliverables. That keeps the process fresh, the project tangible, and it lays the foundation for a successful outcome which is ultimately more fun for everyone involved.