What is customer-centric project managing?

(This post contains affiliate hyperlinks. Please read my full disclosure.
This is an edited excerpt from my book Customer-Centric project management, which I co-authored with Phil Peplow (Routledge 2012).
Let’s start with the basics. Projects must deliver value. Even if the stakeholder population is only one, projects must involve all stakeholders.
These are the foundations of customer-centric project management. Stakeholders are the ones who decide what ‘value is’.
Traditional project management principles state that successful project delivery depends on meeting the three constraints of time, cost, and quality.
Project managers consider a project successful if it is on time, within budget, and meets the quality criteria. But times are changing. Practitioners and academics in project management are moving to define success as the delivery or organizational value of business results.
Practitioners and academics discuss the value and discipline of project management and how to calculate organizational value of project deliverables. This is how projects can achieve organizational strategy and corporate objectives.
Despite all the discussions about value, there is still a disconnect between how projects are managed and who they are delivered to. No one can agree on what “value” is.
Rethinking stakeholder management
Traditional project management refers to stakeholders, people who have a stake on the project’s outcome. Sometimes, the term “stakeholder” is used to refer to the “most important or senior person” or the “individual who is paying for this project”.
The deliverables created for project teams are more important than the delivery method. This is what defines the people who are most important to them.
We believe it’s time for a rethink of value and stakeholder management. These people are not just stakeholders, they are customers of the project management process and get to decide what is valuable. Project teams provide a service and should deliver excellent customer service alongside the deliverables.
Individuals, teams, colleagues, or third-party providers can all be project customers. They should all receive the same treatment. The purse strings are not the only person who can decide if the project team is doing an excellent job. Everyone matters these days – more than ever before. Collaboration is the best and only way to deliver projects on time.
The disconnect between the stakeholder’ and customer’ approaches is evident in traditional project management methods that only ask stakeholders for feedback at the post-implementation review.
Restaurants are known for their excellent customer service. This means that they will interrupt your conversation with other diners to ask about your meal.
The post-implementation review is the opposite: it’s like a waiter leaving drinks, all three course and a cup of coffee on the table, and then disappearing until the end when he appears with the bill.
The shift towards customer-centricity
Project management is not exactly like that. Stakeholders should be involved in the elicitation and testing of requirements.
There are many ways to involve stakeholders throughout the life of a project. Project teams don’t often ask stakeholders how they feel about the project management process, or evaluate the project management process until the project is finished.
This is changing, we know. We know this.