Some organizations view end users as lower-priority stakeholders than the sponsors and other champions who often control funding or who significantly influence resource availability for the project office. But savvy PMPs know that end users—their expertise and, more importantly, their cooperation—are a crucial component in project success. While it’s important to check with the organization’s leadership team first to be sure you aren’t likely to step on any toes, the following 4 strategies are all great ways to integrate project end users into real project partners.
1 – Hold meetings just for end users. Questions from end users are sometimes drowned out when other stakeholders get on a roll. Their concerns may also not receive the attention they deserve if a sponsor or executive seizes on the issue and heads off topic. In both cases, the end user group doesn’t get the support it needs and the project’s progress may suffer as a result. Effective end user meetings can take many shapes. Work to embrace the formats your project’s end users will find most useful. Brown bag information sessions often work well, especially when paired with a Q&A session at the end. Task-focused meetings are also helpful prior to any scheduled work disruptions or external regulatory reviews.
2 – Solicit end users’ input early in the process. Sponsors and other project stakeholders higher in the organization’s structure may be able to provide good input on equipment needs and operational perspectives, but PMP®s should also strive to talk directly with end users about their needs, how the project will impact them, and where their concerns are focused. Does the project team have complete and accurate information about workflows that will be affected? Are there existing issues not addressed by this project and that could stand in the way of long-term success? This is a very common area overlooked by high-level stakeholders—day-to-day issues often aren’t brought to their attention—but one that can easily hinder the Project Team’s efforts. Working directly with end user groups during the planning phase gives the project team better insight into potential issues while there’s still time to do something about them.
3 – Provide end users with dedicated resources within the Project Team. By assigning one or even a small handful of people on the project team to be the lead for end user inquiries and input, you will retain much better control over how questions are prioritized and addressed. Lean resources and executive-level demands can sometimes cause end user issues to fall through the cracks. Ensuring that doesn’t happen provides positive benefits for all stakeholder groups and the project team alike. These dedicated individuals can also spearhead additional customer service activities, such as developing more granular end user surveys aimed at harvesting better data and providing more information that’s of interest to end users during open houses and similar events.
4 – Include end users in the post-project analysis. Once a project is complete, a thorough postmortem review should encompass more than just the project team’s evaluation of how activities were handled and where glitches occurred. Input from end users should also be included, as their perspective may bring any number of potential issues to light. The analysis can leverage the feedback normally solicited as part of the post-project survey while also pulling additional details from end users about any concerns that were raised or by querying them more closely about how the project aligned with their original expectations. Not only will end users’ participation in the post-mortem analysis enhance the Project Team’s advocacy efforts, it’s also an excellent way to fine tune the team’s customer service efforts for future projects.