We have our project sponsors in the customer organization who have been tasked with getting a
new technology installed or process implemented or accounting system built. But this is really
often just a champion – someone who has some money and/or power to get things done in the
organization. A decision maker and point person. That’s who you work with as the project
manager. But who is the real customer in a technical project? Is it that person? Or is it their
employees or their customers who are the ones who will end up using this new technology,
process or system when the project is rolled out?
I contend that when the rubber meets the road, the real true customer is the end user. When is
the end user part of the project? On many projects the end user is the one who needs the
solution and gets the solution and that’s the total of their involvement. I read a quote the other day
that applies to this concept: “A user is somebody who tells you what they want the day you give
them what they asked for” (Actually, it sounds like something Vince Vaughn’s character Dan Trunkman might say at a client pitch in Unfinished Business). This can be taken to mean that the user often does a poor job telling us at first what they want and the gives us a better definition once the project is over and the solution doesn’t really meet their needs.