DELIVERING VALUE: 10 Reasons to Love User Integration

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Date: October 11, 2017

Not long ago a colleague in the Design and Construction Industry asked our team, “Why do we need such a long User Meeting Process? If we meet with them once, take notes and skip the rest, we can save six weeks on the schedule, not have any changes to the design, and keep the budget how it is.”

Although my friend’s comments about scope, schedule and budget were correct, by short changing User involvement the project would completely miss one key element… Value. Value is what a Customer wants from a given process, delivered when they want it, for a price they expect to pay.

It is easy for a project team to fall into the trap of focusing only on what they view as valuable. It may be a company commitment to completing projects on time, staying on budget, or quality of design. All of these are good things, but ultimately the Customer defines Value.

The project team mentioned above was very experienced, having previously worked together and recently delivered a similar (not to mention very successful) project. It seemed that we could simply do what we did the last time. In reality we could have completed the project on time and within the stated budget, but without detailed input from the Users, we would have delivered the wrong thing.

SIMILAR project ≠ SAME project

Voice of the Customer (VOC) is a term that describes an in-depth process of capturing the Customer’s expectations. For Design and Construction Professionals, this step is important in the delivery of Value on any project. Below is a list of why every Design and Construction Team should love the User Integration Process.

1. It is how you understand the “Why”. Of all the Big Picture questions, this is the most important. It sets the over-arching direction for a project. The Customer is the only one who can set this. The User is the only one who can validate if a design solution meets the “Why”.

2. It is how you understand the Customer’s current and future state. Engaging the User is the only way to completely understand their current state of operation. Professional opinion and analysis only get a team part of the way. This is an opportunity to discover what truly works for the Customer and what Lessons Learned they want to bring forward to the next project.

3. It is how you communicate the Process. If the User understands the design and construction roadmap, they can give better input which contributes to a better product.

4. This is when you validate assumptions and industry standards. Design and Construction Professionals are expected to bring a level of expertise in industry standards and be able to make qualified assumptions based on experience. The User is the only one that can validate that these assumptions are relevant to the current project.

5. Use it to gather data relevant to the Customer. The best place to get accurate information about the Customer is from the Customer themselves. Industry data may or may not apply to the Customer’s future operations.

6. It is needed to set project goals that are consistent with Customer needs. Often times Customers have specific requirements they need to meet, this information is not always given upfront. For example, a new classroom building needs to be complete before the next school year, or a Hospital needs to be staffed and open before the Holiday season.

7. It is the time to align Key Inputs from the User with the schedule. Many Designers include User interaction in their process. One detail that is often missed is identifying when User input or decisions need to be made before the entire project schedule is impacted.

8. It’s an opportunity to itemize: Satisfiers, Dis-satisfiers and Delighters. Dis-satisfiers are items that are a basic requirement for operation. Without these, the Customer cannot use their product and will be Dis-satisfied. Satisfiers are items that increase satisfaction to the degree it enhances performance. Delighters are items that are not expected, but bring excitement and extra value to the product.

9. Early User integration can identify details of the desired output. User Integration is the time to confirm production targets and if the product planned will in fact meet the Customer’s needs. Many project teams do not get to this step until many hours of work have already been spent. This can cause significant re-work.

10. Continuous User integration provides validation that the team is on track. Continuous User integration is key to keeping an eye on what is being produced and the only way to validate if the Design or Construction process is generating the desired Value. Forces outside of the project team such as Authorities Having Jurisdiction, market conditions, or building material supply can easily sway the end product away from User Values.

Tips for Implementation:

  1. Develop a value stream map with the Users.
  2. Identify what specifics you need to know from the Users prior to any meeting.
  3. Design the process for User Integration.
  4. Schedule the process.
  5. Clearly explain the process and objectives to the Users.

 

By :
Jeremiah Sugarman, RA, LSSBB.
Wakefield Beasley & Associates
Project Manager