In our experience, we found that, at least in the services industry, a client is best taken care by the services provider when there is a heavyweight figure at reach. Moreover, it is best when that figure has knowledge of the client’s industry, its problems and solutions, besides the day-to-day of the project. At Basecodeit, that figure is called Focal Point and, specifically, has the task of taking care of the client’s wellbeing and ensure the interests of the project.
Projects without a Focal Point
When a project doesn’t have a relevant person to which both the provider’s team and the client can reach, some typical aspects can’t be sorted out effectively and a client often times is bouncing between different people on the provider’s side. I know it because it happened to me! If time goes by and there’s an unhandled issue, it can eventually blow up in somebody’s face. Examples of these issues are: concerns about something within the team, invoicing problems or project approach strategies.
Clients with and without experience in software development
This is an ample subject. It’s not the same a client with experience (and maybe from a corporation with a software development area) and an inexperienced client.
Enabled by our Vision, we take care of going along with our clients depending on the Product Owner’s previous experience.
By default, we work with Agile Methodologies at Basecodeit, and we apply that practice to our design and development process.
For a corporation, we use a process that fits their organization standard and requirements, but for an organization without previous experience (even 1 person organizations), we take that agile approach also for product definition, MVP definition, and pass on a way of work that’s usually more organized than the existing one.
Basecodeit’s Focal Point has the ability to constantly benchmark the methodology’s performance and its use of defined artifacts, and to react with change proposals if necessary.
Benefits of having a Focal Point
Given what I previously mentioned, it becomes evident that having a person involved with project, methodology AND client engagement supervision can result in a benefit for all parties.
Our goal with the Focal Points is to organize and optimize the process frameworks, and get early warnings of any relevant change that might require the management team involvement.
In our experience with the application of a Focal Point role, we’ve been able to handle, without major issues, scenarios such as:
- Requirement changes that are in conflict with what was originally agreed
- Different opinions on project management
- Improvements to the work methodologies, and not just customizations, but total and complete change of methodology
- Planning and assignment of developers to a project
A Focal Point’s job description
What abilities makes a Focal Point? How can a correct Focal Point be chosen? This, and many other questions, arose when we first started drafting this position at Basecodeit.
Currently, the tasks that can be performed by a Focal Point require:
- Resource management
- Time management (own and third-party’s)
- Confidential information management
- Smart and lateral thinking
- Technical and technological knowledge
- Excellent communication skills
When a Focal Point goes into action, two extremely important things must happen:
- Understanding of the situation that’s being consulted
- Ensure that what this person tries to express is clear as water
The rest of the abilities are tied to these two conditions that are really shades of the communication skills. I can’t stress enough how important is for Basecodeit and, I think, any other organization, that the communication between parties is efficient, effective and fluid.
A Focal Point is not a PM
It never came up in our operations, but might make sense to mention in this a post. A Focal Point is not a Project Manager. The key difference is that a PM will be assigned full or part time and take ownership of the project management, cost management, and project execution. A PM might refer client to the Focal Point on some aspects and, at the same time, they will be in sync with the project status and any development. If needed, the Focal Point will focus on the project to improve its performance.
Advantages for clients
The main benefits for a client are:
- Clarity on what to speak with whom on any subject
- A way to escalate issues. The Focal Point reports directly to Sales and Technology head
- Help on best practices definition to get the project to the best outcome
- Has a full picture across multiple (or all) projects for the same client
There are also benefits for Basecodeit, which we mentioned before: Early warnings of complex project situations, learning experience and the accomplishment of our Vision.
The value of a Focal Point
As I mentioned, the having a Focal Point role adds value to both the client, the project and to Basecodeit. There’s no cost for having a Focal Point at Basecodeit. Our service has a FP for everybody’s benefit.
In the contracts we sign it’s always mentioned who will be the Focal Point for the project. In the kickoff meetings, the Focal Point it’s always present, and it’s very likely that in the previous steps of starting a new project the Focal Point has reached the client.