The Agile development process is all the rage in delivery solid software development but I’ve recently noticed a trend by software developers and development companies to leave the account management to PM leads. From what I’ve seen, the results from an account management perspective have been less than optimal when there has been no client management presence on the engagement. In the past year, I have seen several large accounts who originally committed to long-term work streams of multiple projects cancel before the original term of the engagement.
Why? All were run by exceptionally strong teams from strong PMO’s, but two common factors resulted in failure: the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) concept for initial delivery and the lack of strong account management oversight. The first of these is baked into the Agile process and typically delivers a stable, on-time product to market but with a reduced feature set than the business initially agreed to. The second seems to be a vestigial tail left over from the project delivery mindset of software development which is short-term, driven by production efficiency and deadlines, and forgets about long-term value and post-launch customer adoption.
Managing business client expectations (not just from an IT delivery perspective), especially when the sales team has sold in a much broader feature set, is a mission critical piece of account strategy work that neither the PMO or the sales team addresses. It is a relationship and communication piece that comes with a truly integrated and aligned team. The alignment piece is about allowing the PM to make sure short-term delivery goals are met in conjunction with an account management or strategy relationship that makes sure the client business understands the tradeoffs in the Agile process. Without this later piece, disappointment is built in. Some of my worst new business wins were soured by a sales person’s admonition to “remember this is sales, not delivery”. That was the canary in the coal mine for unmet expectations and account churn.
From a software business perspective, the choice comes down to style: Do you have a combine harvester business or a sustainable agriculture model? The combine harvester model depends on always having new fields to move on to while the sustainable agriculture model is one that tends and cares for what exists. If you believe in the second but practice the first, maybe it’s time to invest in some real account strategists to manage your accounts.
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