18 April 2007

RATER: Tangibles

Tangibles are physical things that people can interact with. Usually this means they are physical things you can touch and feel. In the service oriented consulting world of the project manager and business analyst tangibles are an important part of satisfying your clients.

Delivering tangibles improves the service experience for the customer. People have a hard time assessing non-tangible things like service and as a result they tend to measure the mistakes rather than the successes. You can help them appreciate your successes by giving them tangible objects to work with. This helps them engage with you, your project and the ideas you are trying to convey more effectively.

Look to the advertising industry for a good example. They understand the way a quality bound document will influence a client’s perceptions and they deliver quality tangibles in an intangible industry. An easy to access example is the Lovemarks book by Saatchi and Saatchi CEO Kevin Andrews. The books design is part of the tangible experience that delivers it’s ideas.

Quality documents
Like advertising, in projects the most common tangibles are documents and reports. Use the colour printer, go to the local print shop and make a glossy brochure for your project. Make your documents punchy and to the point. Try not to deliver another 80 page document that won’t be read – but if you do have to use large documents make ample use of colour diagrams and graphs to visually represent ideas. Have a colour title page.

Rather than email large documents to people deliver the bound physical copy to their desks. They will appreciate the easing of their email burden and the document will be better digested in paper format. You’ll also be able to ensure people get your snazzy colour pictures rather than print them in black and white.

Take your time on the layout and design of documents and don’t rely on off the shelf templates. Learn your audiences quirks and needs and tailer your documents to them.

Prototypes and early designs
For software projects tangibles can be prototypes and samples or screenshots of user interfaces. In business process projects tangibles can be pilot processes demonstrating the FMO model in action.

Tangible Business Cases
Money in the bank is also a tangible. In the commercial world money in the bank may well be one of the most important tangibles. Business cases should always deliver tangible benefits. Systems like Six Sigma can help you identify those benefits. We can discuss business cases and modelling in another post, but make sure your project is going to provide a measurable financial benefit and that you deliver that benefit.

Too many projects have weak business cases and then when costs blow out they are likely not delivering any benefit back to the business.

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