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Beware of shortcuts because they seldom are, especially when it comes to talking to your customers! 

It

is so tempting to follow the lead of a “savvy surrogate” when it comes

to steering a software project.  After all, it’s so much easier to

present her a demonstration of the application and get positive feedback

than it is to deal with all of the logistics, and anxiety, of

recruiting real customers to a customer focus group.  Not to mention having to listen to them and analyze and interpret their feedback!

I
sit here shaking my head in amazement as I confess to having
relearned…yet again…this fundamental lesson in Agile Project
Management for the umpteenth time this week.  You would think that after
25 years of experience I wouldn’t allow myself to fall for the allure
of the “we don’t need to talk to our customers” shortcut, but alas…I
did. 

The price paid?  Delaying the delivery of real value to hundreds of human beings.

On the very day that we turn over a production microsite

to a division of one of our clients, we receive the following email

from the newly appointed interim Executive Sponsor of the project (the

original Executive Sponsor was recently reassigned to a corporate

special task force):

bq.

“Without a high interest or benefit to our
customers at this point
and with limited internal resources we have decided to place this
project on
hold.  Now with the higher awareness of what the b2b potential can be,
we will spend some time gathering input from customers on the
topic and
we will likely revisit the concept in several months or early 2011.”

Ouch!  Sobering.  Especially when you

know that there has to be real interest in their customer base and that

they are literally hours away from declaring victory! (see “Why Your Customers Don’t Want to Talk to You“)</p>

Frankly, many of the project’s risks were being broadcast loud and clear

over the past six weeks.  I guess we simply weren’t tuned in to hearing

them because…subconsciously we believed that success was preordained

and inevitable??? and in fact promised by our “savvy surrogate”???

<br />

+BUT IT’S NOT TOO LATE!  </p><p>Call

up a handful of your customers today, invite them to a 1 hour

GoToMeeting, show them a live demo of this brave new world called “The

Internet” and see what they have to say.

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