The Bizzle

"Saving your ass since 1999"

What does success look like? No idea…

We’ve been asked to do a trial for a new client, calling people to sell them a particular service. Excitingly, the list of prospects uses “experimental” data, which means that it is of indeterminate age and dubious accuracy.

The deal is that we will get paid if we meet five “critical success factors”. I have been tasked with writing a watertight contract to ensure that the client can’t escape this obligation.

The first, and most important, critical success factor is to make an agreed level of daily sales. It isn’t clear at what point in the trial we should achieve this, or whether it’s intended to be an average over a particular period or a minimum daily target. I phone three people (the project manager, the “intelligence manager”, and the ops manager), and get three different answers.

The second factor is that the sales must meet the criteria for being sales. Um, yes. I make a unilateral decision to ditch this in favour of saying that sales will only count toward the first target if they are genuine sales.

The third critical success factor is beautiful: we must out-perform the client’s in-house team. Thing is, we have no practical way to verify if that team is using the same “experimental” data as us, or what their performance is. And that means that we have to take the client’s word on whether we have met this target or not – good job they have no commercial incentive to say that we haven’t, eh?

Luckily it gets easier – the fourth factor is that we handle the data in accordance with our own information security policy. Basically, as long as we don’t post customer data on the internet or leave it in a skip in the back yard, we’ll be ok.

And even easier: the final definition of “critical success” is that our management information is able measure our achievement against the first three targets. Yes, I think that we should be able to tell you how many sales we’ve made…

When I pointed out to the project manager that critical success factor number three makes a massive loophole, he rightly pointed out that the list had been widely circulated some weeks ago (albeit not to me). This brief exchange ensued:-

Me: “But these issues are obvious. Surely I can’t be the only person applying critical thinking to this project?”

Project manager: “Well, I didn’t get any other responses at all…”

Asked, and answered.

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