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How can we deliver Value to a client unless we share an understanding of what Value means for the project?

We’ve all heard of “Good Value for money” and that something can itself be valuable. But how does the language fit into our project delivery and client management approach?

Projects start in different ways, but they all need to have one thing in common. Whether the client brings you a simple vision for the work, or they hand over a detailed 200-page specification, you still want to understand how to return the most value you can in the time available.

The ‘Why’ of a project is usually defined by the client. There are exceptions—where you’ve worked closely with the client a long time, for example—but it’s common that the reason a project is happening surfaces before you’re engaged by their business. The ‘Why’ and the Value Definition give you the overarching goal that helps align and motivate stakeholders. Some call it the North Star.

It’s important not simply to ask a client what Value means for the project. They can support in the guidance of the definition, but unless any-and-all the needs (The ‘What’) they bring to the project inception are evidenced (not simply opinions or consensus) we should always push back to get a more balanced vision aligned upon.

Value or Client value is often as simple as ‘That which the business values’. In the context of projects which have an end user or customer, I would expand that out to ‘That which both the business and their customer values’.

There are various exercised and techniques that can clarify, justify and simplify this discussion. Although the right balance depends on your relationship with the client and stakeholders they are desirable as part of a broader inception workshop.

Once you’ve agreed on what Value looks like for a specific project, you can use that clarity to champion or question an item of work and its prioritisation. Boosting those items which align closely with the Value Definition and delaying those which do not.

The result is that with the time available you encourage the building of the more valuable items, and the project is more successful because of it. Ultimately that leads to delighted clients and a stronger relationship.

The above process is a key part of the Client Inception Workshop I defined recently, and I’ll share more in the near future.

Future articles will explore:

  • How to maximise value during iterative delivery
  • What a client inception workshop does and why it’s important for project success
  • How to make use of your value definition during the project for prioritisation and recommendation

If you’d like to read more about value definitions, consider a book called The Art of Business Value by Mark Schwartz too

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