Defining Service Requirements in Project-Based Organizations: harmonizing and predicting customer needs through experience based methods

Johnny Långstedt, Victor Sifontes Herrera, Robin Wikström

Research output: Other contribution


Project-based organizations too often struggle with poorly defined project scopes and services, which does not only impact the end-margin negatively, but even creates a divide between sales and delivery divisions. The reasons behind these poorly defined delivery scopes originate from vaguely defined services and limited understanding of which customer needs the services fulfill. This implies that the context into which the project teams enter as well as the expectations are unclear. Even when the role of services in the project-based organizations’ are assumed to play an increased role intheir profitability (Kujala et al., 2013; Wikström et al., 2009), there is often a mismatch between the required services and the scope of the project. This leads to underestimations of the resources required to successfully execute the project. Still, the services that a supplier offers are a means to provide added value to the customer (Artto et al. 2008) and require, thus, a proper resource allocation.Critical project factors (CPF) are those elements necessary for the success of projects (Cooper & Budd, 2007). On a project level, it is critical to identify the CPFs during the sales phase. In projects, some tasks are more critical than others and, therefore, some services have more impact in the project than others during the sales phase. The tool that we have developed is designed to break down the services that the projects require and thereby identify critical tasks that should be in the supplier’s scope and thereby ensure overall performance. A precipitate deduction of services during sales of a project may have dire consequences on overall performance. Because projects mostly entail a unique context and product (Lundin & Söderholm, 1995), one can assume that routine one- -size-fits-all project management and project sales tools are insufficient. Therefore, the definition of the services and their implicit interconnections need to be made explicit as they may have both longand short-term effects on business performance (Artto et al., 2008).In this article, we discuss how a tool based on a vast array of accumulated organizational experience can aid both the sales and project teams and what their role becomes in the process. The data was collected in a longitudinal study spanning 2011 to end of 2013. Therefore, we have a unique perspective on the services that are needed in projects and the challenges that are present in projects. The tool that was developed on the basis of our data enables access to tacit knowledge andearlier experience that is not readily available and that improves the ability to identify those needs and challenges that customers face, which in turn improves the definition of project scopes and services. The herein presented method aims not only at improving the delivery of the project and increasing the margin but also at supporting knowledge diffusion within organizations, while harmonizing the mutually complementary activities of the sales and delivery departments.We studied and worked in cooperation with a company by organizing and participating in workshops, interviews and other forms of direct communication. From this, we identified the need for a method that would not only limit itself to encapsulate the vast implicit knowledge available in the company but also, and based on a systematization of such knowledge, provide sound guidelines throughout the different phases of the project. This method, hereafter referred to as the configurator, provides its primary users with a project service profile, in which the services that are likely to be crucial during project execution will be brought to attention.The article discusses the implicit antecedents and effects that a tool such as this may have and provides a theoretical framework for its foundations. The article draws from organizational, sociological and psychological theories in order to provide a stable theoretical framework. We argue that through the use of similar tools, the entry stress that occurs when individuals confront unfamiliar contexts can be alleviated both through a systematic approach to the tailoring of services that match the project requirements and through the common communication channel that is established between the sales team and the project management team. This enables the project manager to identify relevant cues and enable him to reflect on matters rather than react according to incompatible frameworks.This is achieved by implementing a heuristic model that guides project managers and sales agents in the decision making processes that take place during the offering stages of a project and, although the tool is best utilized in the sale of a project, its foundations are laid on data from actual project executions, which makes it suitable for other project phases.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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