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Manage Customer Expectations to Define Success

I think that most of us agree that the success of a project, to a great extent, is defined by the level in which we meet the client’s expectations.

Yes, I know that there are financial goals for a project as well, but if a project winds up not being as profitable as projected, it’s important that, at a minimum, it becomes a good reference. No one wants to lose money on a job and leave behind an unhappy client that espouses your shortcomings to all who will listen.

So, setting realistic and achievable expectations is critical: using practical, real-world experience; addressing the common issues encountered on a project; explaining the drawbacks as well as the benefits.

Terminology

As technology becomes more publicized, buzzwords can creep into the average person’s vocabulary.

For example, on a recent project the client wanted to capture an image of each license plate that entered and exited their property. These images could then be retrieved (based on the time stamp) and the tag number could be manually read.

They continually referred to these cameras as “license plate recognition cameras,” which implies a system that is capturing tag numbers as text streams, not as graphical images. Had we not continued to clarify the design intent and functionality, we would have run the risk that they were describing a completely different system.

Image quality

Determine what the client really expects to see. If you’re covering a parking lot with a camera in each corner, you may not see every car. When the camera count goes down, make sure that it is clear that the coverage will be reduced as well. If they are looking to identify faces as they enter a building, you may need to dial up the pixel count on those cameras. On the other hand, a high resolution camera makes little sense in most elevators or other confined spaces.

Operational

The application in which the system will be used plays a huge part in equipment selection. We’ve seen PTZ cameras put into systems that are largely unattended and then left in auto pan mode, pretty much assuring that the camera will be pointing the wrong way when something happens. The cameras are then called “useless,” even though they are functioning as designed.

Similarly, monitors that are placed too far from an operator may display images that are effectively too small for the operator to review or recognize.

Environmental

Make sure that care is taken to address the environment in which the products are used. A PTZ camera with high optical magnification can get you seasick on a windy day if mounted on a 40-foot pole. A card reader mounted too high or too low will bother someone every time they have to bend or stretch when walking through that door.

Real-world experience

I mention real-world experience because in the absence of that people tend to let manufacturers, or Hollywood, set the expectations. With manufacturers, every product is perfect, from facial recognition to wide dynamic range, and a quick run through the catalog will solve every problem.

Hollywood has cameras that can see inside shopping bags, recognize someone in a crowd based on their driver’s license photo in five seconds or less, and the perfect camera angle no matter what the incident. Not stepping in and setting the record straight from the start is a recipe for disaster that is too often followed.

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