The Sales team did their job. Softvision’s vision in delivering software projects has been conveyed successfully, the excellent technical capabilities have been proven, and the potential customer is now prepared to start the project work. Kickoff meeting took place, everyone involved has understood the scope, the requirements are familiar with the Agile ceremonies and is prepared to start the day to day work.
Going forward, there are several contexts where the Softvision engineering team could find itself running into some challenges, so let’s analyze one of those raising challenges. If we’re talking about a product whose architecture has been defined, there is an engineering team already in place on the customer’s side, and Softvision’s initial role is to provide expertise so that the existing engineering team can scale, and one of the potential challenges that can appear is earning trust on the customer side.
There are many providers out there and each one has a different culture, working style, expertise, and capability. So, there are some natural questions that come to mind for anyone that is in the customer’s seat: Will we work well with these guys? Can we trust their abilities? Will they deliver the work we need? Will we get along well with them?
And here comes the role of the Project Manager.
How do you earn the trust of the people you work with?
Every time a new work relationship starts, it’s back to square one. Even if you’ve delivered hundreds of successful projects, even if you’re one of the most knowledgeable thought leaders in the community, even if there are a countless amount of people that can confirm you’ve previously done excellent work, you (as a provider or Project Manager) need to start all over again.
So, what can you do? How do you make people confident in your abilities and in the end, in yourself?
Safest way to earn people’s trust is doing what you said you’re going to do. This includes two large parts:
- Communicating the current situation, planned evolution of things and how the destination goals will look like. This is the ‘saying’ part of creating trust as it helps your stakeholders to adjust their expectations to the concrete situation and risks.
- Implementing flawlessly the communicated plan and delivering the work on time and in good quality. This is the ‘doing’ part of creating trust that is equally important to the ‘saying’ one, as it confirms that the expectations were established right and that you’re a reliable provider.
In business, nobody likes surprises. One could argue that a pleasant surprise – such as your software provider delivering the work sooner than expected – would be welcome, however, this also raises some concerns. Why was the estimated time longer than the actuals, did they not understand properly the situation’s complexity? If so, what would have happened if they were underestimating instead of overestimating? There are many unwanted questions that might appear derived from a pleasant surprise, and the simplest way to avoid them is being predictable. Your stakeholders – internal from the company or external from your customer – need to know exactly what to expect from you at any time, and this makes you reliable as a supplier. This contributes to the climate of trust that is vital to any relationship.
The trust in someone’s abilities also comes from knowing their way of thinking. If I’m not there, how will I know that someone from Softvision’s Project Management Community will perform the necessary tasks when encountering a crisis? The first answer that comes to mind is ‘because I know how this person thinks’. In order to offer this transparency on the thought process, a weekly touch base between the Project Manager and the Stakeholder always helps, even if there are no immediate escalations or action items, as it shows a consistent way of approaching the relationship. Brainstorming or strategic discussions during these encounters shed light on how both parties are seeing things and also are thinking about things, and help to build bricks of the trust foundation.
Trust is one of the fundamental parts of a healthy professional relationship, and the elements described in this article are related to clearly communicating the outcome from quantity, time and quality perspectives, executing the work so these goals are reached, as well as showing that the person is predictable, reliable, and has a healthy way of approaching situations that will determine the right outcome even if it’s a crisis that may be struck.
This is what we do on a daily basis here at Softvision.