If you and your loved ones and colleagues are heavily disrupted by the limitations under which many of us are living now, I hope you’re finding your path to normalcy or comfort.
Every customer of your IT services probably just got a LOT harder to get in touch with. And nearly impossible to get to say “Yeah, sure, just keep moving on our project like if nothing happened.” You may have extra time on your hands now as the IT departments you service put everything on hold while they support their companies’ wholesale move an all-remote workplace. What to do when it becomes clear that deliverables on your engagement will/have come to an abrupt halt?
There’s no reason to stand still just because of your current project's new freeze. In any business, during downturns those destined to thrive double down on preparation for the recovery period. So one of your priorities as you get your bearings now should be to be your client’s first call when their routines and revenue streams have stabilized. I’ll share here some advice to make sure that that’s where you are when the clouds clear:
Document Where You Are Now.
You need to make it clear to your client that no one is better-prepared to pick up where you left off than you and your team. If your documentation game was not yet on-point, now is the time to try to get it there.
Catalog the current status on every metric being watched over on the project. Include documentation of how far you were from each milestone, open questions or issues or risks. Balances on promised hours or a budgeted spend. Perhaps evaluate in print exactly how usable the product is now, and by whom. This will all serve very well in case the client has to re-assess requirements and deliverables when the project resumes, or has to plan a new limited version of the project with its priorities changed. On the day they ask “So where were we?”, it’ll be more impressive if you have an immediate, written answer (that they will have already seen, of course).
Keep in touch.
You never know when your contacts might find a reason or an opening to pick the project back up, even while surrounding business units in their company are in a slowdown. Or perhaps when other initiatives simply get de-prioritized. Be the voice of the project, and keep whispering in their ear about it. It’d be inappropriate to push very hard, as you must remain sensitive to their current internal environment and context. But checking in very gently perhaps once a month can serve to remind the customer of their value to you. Help them look forward to getting back to the progress you had been making together.
Document a Resumption Plan.
We’re writing these now with a tone of urgency, with the assumption built-in that the pace will have to be accelerated once work is resumed. Detail in this plan how you will enable and facilitate this. This could include added talent put on the job, a change of technology choices, and a tighter calendar of milestones and deadlines. Documenting all this in advance makes it clear to the customer that you value their time, that their priority is your priority, and that you’ve learned from experience. Should your client resume the project, at that time they will already be dealing with other service providers and internal projects that have to start moving from a cold engine. Yours, however, will have already prepared to reduce the ramp-up time. Customers will look forward to that. And, of course, remind them that you have a plan during the check-in calls mentioned above.
Ask “What can I have ready for you when this all blows over?”
The outline of the next project your client had in mind just quickly became the very last thing on their mind. This health crisis has put the kibosh on any future projects you’d chatted about in passing, and so on your aspirations for a prolonged engagement with your customer.
Right now at The Lytic Group we’re asking to start on proposals for future projects that our customers had previously only lightly mentioned were coming down the pike. Where possible, we’re getting access to take a look at any other pain points that had been previously mentioned in passing. We’re taking a direct look remotely, then creating a first draft of a proposal. It’ll likely have to stay at that first (rough) draft stage for some time, but this allows us to quickly return to it once business is back on track and refine the deliverables and requirements with the client.
Behind the scenes, having this early proposal could also give you a pipeline that can be part of your work and revenue forecasts a lot sooner than if you waited until (likely) months from now to even start talking about it.
Shift With The Client.
Right now everyone has new problems. Your client likely is part of an all-hands-on-deck shift at their company to help out with this one new big issue. Instead of stepping away from the muck, you should be offering to help the customer trudge through it.
Some of the same technologies you were leveraging for your customer on the suspended project could prove critical to alleviating the new messes that they suddenly have to deal with these days. A web development outfit, for example, surely can pivot to handle the client’s needs for new COVID-19 policy & procedures posted to their intranet site, and your services could be key to getting that up and running. It doesn’t matter that your team had been working on, let’s say, an in-house accounting application; remind those you serve of the tools and skills you can make available.
And it’s key to make this offer ASAP. Now is the time for reminders of your group’s other available skills that aren’t being applied to your current project. Grow the relationship, and remind your client that you’re a true partner.
Again, there may be new problems for you to help solve rising out of the current mad-dash by IT to architect and support a new working world overnight. The goal now is to give the customer confidence that together you can get to the other side of this, and pick up where you left off once you get there.
And we will get there!
Be healthy, be smart, and always remember the value of community.
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