Tips for Project Success in 2011

As I write, we are only a few weeks into the New Year, so now is a good time to review some tactics that will help you achieve and maintain successful business relationships. Laser scanning is a great tool for many applications, but as with any new technology there will be friction as it moves from niche to mainstream. It is important that this friction be kept to a minimum, especially with regard to the customer experience. Here are a few ideas that are worth keeping in mind:

Tip #1: Be Customer-focused
Always understand the client’s needs and wants, and strive for complete and transparent communication throughout the entire project. Take time to listen. It is critical that everyone agrees on the deliverables, but changes often occur midstream; having your team in tune with the overall project goals will minimize disruption.

One common pitfall is the throw it over the wall approach to data delivery. With laser scanning, a tremendous amount of sophisticated data is collected and processed. If the client user is not experienced, there is potential for confusion and frustration. Consider it your responsibility to ensure that the information you provide is being used properly. Periodically check on the project’s progress and understand how the information is being applied, or why it is not being used.

Focusing on your customers is arguably your most important responsibility. Remember that your customers are also your colleagues consider your boss, project leaders, engineers, and other data analysts.

Tip #2: Avoid Being Customer-driven
It’s easy to mistake being customer-driven with being customer-focused. If you find yourself micromanaged, responding to aggressively changing demands, or forced to execute projects suboptimally (e.g., being told where to place scans when you know better), then you may be customer-driven. Customers will often resort to a driving mentality whenever there is poor communication or performance, so be certain that the expectations are clear from the beginning. Remember to always under-promise and over-deliver, not the reverse! And keep a close rein on project creep that annoying habit clients have of asking for a little bit more, then a little more still, and so on. Throwing in a bit extra is often good business, but be careful it doesn’t snowball.

Tip #3: Keep Learning
Laser scanning can be complicated to understand, requiring, as one wag said, all three hemispheres of your brain. A successful project requires detailed understanding of surveying principles, laser ranging limitations, 3D spatial awareness, imaging, processing software, measurement and error propagation, et cetera. Because the field is relatively new and still evolving, there is a dearth of good training and educational resources. Vendor information may be biased or difficult to understand due to lack of clear standards. The best course of action is to always ask questions and seek out answers from suppliers, peers, and industry experts. For example, it is not enough to know that a laser scanner measures distance. How does it do so? Under what conditions are erroneous results produced, and how are these handled? Attending trade shows and joining industry groups such as the ASTM E57 committee on 3D imaging systems are excellent ways to stay apprised and to foster relationships with industry leaders and peers.

Tip #4: Put Your Best Foot Forward
Awareness of laser scanning has been steadily rising in recent years, but it has not yet achieved mainstream status. Let’s make an effort to evangelize the technology and its promise. With clients it is equally important not to oversell more harm than good will come from stretching the truth. A few years ago, a vendor quoted angular accuracy using a figure more appropriate for an encoder resolution, giving practitioners a false sense of confidence that ultimately resulted in degraded trust when the discrepancy was uncovered. So, let’s all do our best to deal fairly, openly and honestly with the reality and promise of laser scanning.

Keeping these tips in mind throughout all phases of project execution from inception to post-delivery will help maintain good relationships and ultimately result in a positive experience for all parties.