Way back in the day, project scope was easier to define – plow that field, build that wall, dig that ditch, butcher the calf. Now, we have process flow diagrams, business value maps, PMP certificates, waterfall methodologies, and scrum masters.
I have a good friend who married a lady from the Philippines and even after 5+ years of marriage, they still have some English-to-redneck translation issues. I guess they don’t teach redneck slang in the Philippines.
Good clear communication in the manufacturing IT industry is hard.
Everything is much more complex than it used to be. Last week, I was engaging with a customer to clearly define the scope of their project. The objective of this meeting was to map the critical business processes within their manufacturing and office environments. They wanted to upgrade their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, as well as taking a look at their business as a whole to see where improvements can be made. In order to successfully implement this project, there are multiple parties involved:
- Flexware – we are focused on IT and Automation and ways to improve the overall business (Cycle times, process improvements, labor efficiencies, reduced paperwork, more flexibility)
- The ERP upgrade vendor – they are focused on upgrading the ERP system
- The IT vendor – they are focused on keeping everything running, security, making things run smoother, etc.
- The customer – a fast growing, national supplier of food products
It was clear our customer knew the correct steps to make this an effective meeting – document where we are first, identify the gaps, and then prioritize projects to get quick value.
Hard communication comes in various areas:
- What exactly is Flexware going to deliver? What will it look like?
- Will that be useful to the ERP upgrade vendor to do what they need to do?
- How will the customer explain all of this to the rest of his team?
- Will they understand and buy-in?
- Will there be any impact of this assessment to the current IT infrastructure?
- Will this exercise disrupt our ongoing operations?
We have found that the best way for everyone to be on the same page is to share examples or get on a white board. Pictures really do speak a thousand words. We also have to credit the customer with being transparent enough to suggest that we get on the phone with the ERP vendor to make sure we are on the same page with our deliverables and respective needs.
Creating clear communication = Go see it, draw it, talk about it, and share each other’s vocabulary.
In the end, in-person communication still trumps phone conversations, and phone conversations still trump email. Make sure everyone is clear on what is being said and what will get produced.
Work hard to make modern technical communication as clear as it was back in the day.
Proud husband & father. Purdue grad. Adrenaline junkie. Handyman. Enjoys trying new things.