Regardless of your industry or job function, the first step to any project implementation is good communication.
A couple years ago I was doing a project in Puerto Rico where Spanish was the primary language of our client. My co-worker’s wife, whose primary language was also Spanish, joined us for dinner one night where she and I had a very pleasant conversation – in English. I was astonished to find out that her sole source of learning English was Rosetta stone. She had studied it for a little less than a year and had managed to master the art of conversation in English. That got me thinking, “What if there was a Rosetta Stone for project implementation?” What if, we all spoke the same “language” when talking about our project?
During our most recent ERP transition from Microsoft Great Plains (GP) to Microsoft Dynamics AX (AX), there were several conversations that required a translator. The customer would ask, “How do I close a project in AX?” to which I would respond, “Oh, you mean you want to eliminate the project.” Another common question I received was regarding the “batch” functionality in AX. In GP, a batch will post several transactions at once. In AX, a batch is something that you run nightly to process multiple transactions that were posted throughout the day; similar, but not the same thing. Quickly, I learned that if we were going to move forward, we needed to learn each other’s language.
I personally haven’t used language software like Rosetta Stone, but I have come up with a few quick tips to aid in connecting with the customer when discussing a project:
- Ask questions. If the customer keeps asking the same question and you keep answering it, you probably need to define clearly what they are talking about.
- Use examples. This technique has been invaluable to me through our GP to AX transition. For instance, when the customer asks if they can run a batch. Ask them to show you an example in their existing system so that you can cover all of the bases and make sure you fully understand the question.
- Don’t assume. You may be saying the same word, but that word could have two entirely different meanings in the conversation. There have been instances where the customer will nod their head in agreement and later become frustrated because the requirements were not met by the solution discussed.
- Document definitions. The customer you are working with may have used their existing system for decades. Help them out by making a list of terminology they will need to know in order to be successful with the new system.
- Translate often. Once you have identified a discrepancy in terminology, make sure to use the terminology that parallels the new system. Even if the customer continues to use the language from the old system, be sure not to fall into the trap of using incorrect language. This will be beneficial to both of you in the future when the new system is up and running.
The best part of learning a new language is the satisfaction of being able to better communicate and connect with those around you. Make an effort to engage your customer and give them the satisfaction of learning a new language. They may even be able to put it on their résumé!