by Charles Schmidt depicts astronaut training in
the Neutral Buoyancy Simulator at Marshall Space
Flight Center. An astronaut is practicing EVA activities
on a mockup of the Hubble Space Telescope.
At times we become so involved in a project that we forget
about the customer. What the customer requires, needs,
and expects of us should always be the driving force behind
our efforts. Such thinking leads to the logical conclusion
that recruiting the customer's active involvement is a
critical component of project management.
Without question the customer should be part of the
development team. One way to integrate the customer
into the development team (civil servants and/or contractors)
is to set up a partnership. This will be different from
the traditional customer-supplier relationship. This
type of arrangement is not always possible depending
on contractual and/or disclosure obligations of the
project. When the project manager is at liberty to do
so, he or she should seriously engage the customer.
In my experience, I have always found that even in extremely
technical and politically challenging projects, the
customer has been the key to the successful implementation
of the project.
- The customer and supplier should agree on a partnership
for the purpose of developing the product or providing
a service. The partnership should require the customer
to provide personnel with appropriate backgrounds
to actively participate as members of the project
management team, the subsystem development teams,
and the integration and validation team (the teams
could vary based on project needs). The supplier must
create an environment in which the development team
accepts the customer and there is open communication
between all parties.
- From the start, establish that the customer
is a member of the development team.
- The customer/supplier team (CST) is responsible
for the Formulation Phase in the definition of
requirements, budgets, timelines, performance,
- The CST is involved in the architecture development/evaluations,
trade studies of cost, performance, and schedules.
- The CST is involved in the generation of the
baseline project plan containing performance,
cost, schedules, and risk assessments.
- The customer and the project manager are together
involved in the approval phase of the project. This
is a relationship of collaboration, not a customer-to-supplier
- The CSTs have joint responsibility for the Implementation
Phase of the project.
- The customer works side by side with the supplier
and is held accountable with the rest of the team
for meeting milestones.
- The customer is actively involved in risk, performance,
schedule, and cost trade-offs made during implementation
and for keeping open communications with management.
- The customer also has a critical role in the Evaluation
Phases throughout the development cycle.
- The customer is one of the key players in the
evaluation process, providing valuable insight,
acceptance, and sharing in the responsibility
for project status and any redirections.
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Toledo is the Associate Director for Technology
at the Kennedy Space Center and has received the
NASA Exceptional Service Medal.