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Transparency

Customers buy from people they trust. Can you prove that you’re trustworthy?

Transparency is the idea that the customer can see the status of all project components and all project data. When you operate transparently, the customer knows about problems as soon as you do, and knows everything you do about them.  When you operate transparently, the customer can tell if you have kept all your promises.  Transparency is about not giving yourself anywhere to hide, and making sure the customer knows it.  Transparency requires that you actually do things the way you promised in the proposal.

Approaches

Transparency works best on transaction based projects.  It works especially well in environments where you can track metrics.  

Transparency requires that you give customers access to your tracking systems.  While you can give customers access to paper-based tracking systems, it’s easier when you have a web portal.  

It also works best when tracking is in real time. It is normal to submit monthly reports to the customer that track issues. It is exceptional when you provide real-time access to the system where issues are reported, tracked, and resolved.  Being exceptional is how you win.

Instead of preparing reports by hand-collating the data and selectively classifying and editing the data, a transparent solution enables the customer to see the data as it comes in with no room for someone in the middle to selectively choose what and how to report.

The cheap and easy way to be able to claim transparency is to give your customers access to unfiltered data. But this is sometimes just a way of hiding in plain sight and can increase the burden on the customer to oversee your performance.  With a little more effort, you can quantify, classify, and label things so that you can provide data summaries and roll-ups in a quick and easy to understand online dashboard format.  Think about what the customer needs to see to verify your performance and make that the first thing they see, preferably with a graphic display.  Then enable them to drill down to the underlying data if they want.

If you have an online system like this for managing and reporting project data, consider adding analytics features to it, not only for your use but for the customer’s as well.  With analytics you can discover interesting correlations, like the ratio of problems to successes, the amount of effort consumed by problems vs. successes, the ROI for prevention efforts, the impact of adding staff on turnaround time, etc.  When done right, this will give you plenty of facts to cite in future recompetes, and may also help justify contract modifications or changes to future RFPs.
Sample Transparency Themes

When you operate transparently, you can make statements like these:

  • You will be able to see issues as soon as we do and you will see what we are doing to resolve them as soon as we do it.
  • It’s more difficult to operate this transparently, because it gives us no place to hide.  But we think the results make it worth it.
  • At any point that you have a question about the status, you will be able to get an immediate answer from the same source we would consult ourselves.
  • Unlike our competitors, we will have to meet every specification and keep every promise because you will be able to see any deviations.
  • Operating this transparently lowers the oversight burden, because you have any information you wish to look at, when you wish to look at it, and can pick and choose where to focus your attention.
     

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