Customers and Their Requirements

The final steps in the definition phase are to identify customers, their requirements, and the relative priority of those requirements. The objectives of these steps are to ensure that the project is addressing the right problem and to align project deliverables with customer expectations.

When identifying customers, the team realized that there were two different groups. The ultimate customer was the employee whose records were to be changed (e.g., the VP of Marketing). Although it was critical to satisfy those customers, it was equally important to address the needs of intermediate customers such as the vice-president's assistant, who actually filled out the forms. Both use the services delivered by the payroll/HR system and the keypunch department. While their requirements are similar, the team discovered some important differences in their perspectives.

Similar to the creation of a project plan, identifying customer requirements is a task with which most IT departments are comfortable. Virtually every IT project has as one of its preliminary tasks the definition of requirements. Within Six Sigma organizations, however, this process includes additional steps that may not be part of the traditional requirements definition phase.

Obtaining customer requirements can be accomplished in a number of ways, including interviews, surveys, and reviews of complaint logs. The XYZ team chose interviews because it had a limited number of customers, could afford the time, and believed it would get more information by encouraging open-ended answers rather than asking customers to choose from a menu of predefined responses.

When the team conducted its requirements definition, it discovered that in addition to the processing time and accuracy requirements it had expected, customers identified other requirements, notably the time required for them to complete the input form and the desire for confirmation of system updates. Similarly, while they were interviewing customers, the team members learned that many were frustrated by the need to enter what seemed like arcane system codes, such as a "1" for "fulltime employee" or "9" for "retired." Although these codes and their translations were listed on the input form, their use frustrated the customer. This discovery of new requirements is common and is one of the primary reasons for the requirements definition step.

Where the XYZ team's process initially differed from standard requirements definition was the application of SMART criteria to ensure that the requirements were specific. This was a fairly rigid process that resulted in each requirement being carefully scrutinized and rewritten to ensure that all possible ambiguities were removed. As shown on Exhibit 3, rather than phrasing the first requirement as "Requesting the change must be easy," the team worked with the customers to clarify "easy." When the team had completed the definition of requirements, it asked the customers to give each requirement an importance ranking. The customers understood that this ranking would be used in subsequent steps to ensure that the proposed solution addressed the most critical problems. As shown in Exhibit 3, the team established an importance ranking scale of 1 to 10 but used only four values: 1, 4, 7, and 10. The reason for this was to simplify customer decision making and to make final rankings more definitive.

Exhibit 3. Sample Customer Requirements

Customer: VP of Marketing Output: Updated Payroll/HR Records

Requirement

Importance (1, 4, 7, 10)a

Completing input form requires no more than one minute

l

Completing input form does not require the customer to use any system codes

4

Updates are applied to system the day form is completed

l

Updates are correct the first time

lO

Customer receives confirmation that updates have been applied within eight working hours of the system update

l

Customer: Assistant to VP of Marketing Output: Updated Payroll/HR Records

Requirement

Importance (1, 4, 7, 10)a

Completing input form requires no more than one minute

lO

Completing input form does not require the customer to use any system codes

l

Updates are applied to system the day form is completed

4

Updates are correct the first time

l

Customer receives confirmation that updates have been applied within

4

eight working hours of the system update

a Importance scale: 1 = Unimportant; 4 = important; 10 = Mandatory.

= Moderately important; 7 =

= Very

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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