No matter what profession you work in, there is usually a level of expectation from your customer or client – an expectation to perform well, deliver as promised and to remain professional regardless of the situation of the project.
Having worked in the testing arena for 11 years before my current role as a software test consultant, I’m well aware that the level of client expectations in our own industry has never been greater.
In such a competitive market, expectations must be met or exceeded by every individual working on any given project. In the beginning, it’s important to gain a very clear understanding of what the expectation of the client actually is. This can be gained through formal discussions regarding agreed deliverables, as well as a more general understanding through conversations with the account manager. After all, when dealing with clients and customers, perception is everything.
Having been fortunate enough to work on a number of large-scale and smaller accounts during my time at Sogeti, I have identified this maxim from testing projects through to quality reviews. The one question I always ask myself when beginning a project is this: “What is the perception from the client of how we as a company are performing, and how can this perception be improved?”
On occasions I have worked on projects in which the client perception is so positive that those involved within the project seem to ‘walk on water’. But on the flip-side to this, I have also been introduced to projects that are failing, with the task of recovering those situations, identifying the areas of failure, and reporting on them. In both cases, a significant gap exists between the perceptions of the client and our own understanding of those perceptions.
The recession has certainly not helped this situation. There are generally now fewer staff to perform tasks across a project due to lower levels of funding, and this can lead to incomplete skill-sets. In some situations, clients also seem to want and expect more. In both circumstances, perceptions and expectations need to be managed effectively and assuredly from the outset.
The most important lesson that I have learnt from my history of working on a broad range of testing projects, with varying levels of perception and expectation, is this: make sure that you always take sufficient time to understand what the expectations are before a project starts, otherwise perception levels will begin to fall all around before you even get started.