Fast diagramming – a technique to accelerate the gathering and interpreting the voice of the customer

Gershon Blumstein, Applied Specialist, Senior— EDS

The first fact of life is that customers buy for value. The second fact of life is that the customer defines value. That value may or may not be what the salesperson pitched what the marketing manager positioned, or what the president of that company mandated.

If is true that your customers buy value, the only way you can find out the value of your project management service is to check and see what and why your customers are actually buying. Since customers change over time, you have to check every so often or you run the risk that your customers will become former customers while you are not looking, another unfortunate fact.

This must make Tom Peters correct. He has made a fortune telling everyone to stay close to the customer. The problem is that he and others have not told us how to do it and how much time to devote to the activity.

New Tool and Process

To have a satisfied customer is high on everyone's wish list. To make this hope a reality, this paper discusses the value of using Customer Functional Analysis System Technique (FAST) diagramming to facilitate the process of gathering and interpreting the Voice of the Customer. This paper's contention is to retire the concept that a functional organization uses the traditional techniques of figuring out what a customer wants and desires. The concept used in this paper deals with reinventing the process to gather and interpret the Voice of the Customer. The basic premise is that today's managers must throw out their old notions how to collect and interpret the Voice of the Customer. They must abandon the idea that a functional organization collects and interprets the Voice of the Customer and utilizes the Customer FAST Diagramming technique. The new process will not look much like today's process. The new process of collecting and interpreting the Voice of the Customer, and the way these corporations will develop, sell, support, and deliver Project Management services will be very different. The new project management service will be very different. The new service will be designed around Functions and Features to satisfy today and tomorrow's customers.

The Customer FAST Diagramming method will be used to invest the functions and features of customer wants and desires. This method enables a corporation to develop a winning service while faced with constraints of budget, time, resources, and technology.

The benefits of using this process enables any company to quickly:

• Differentiate its service from its competitors

• Strengthen its customer base and potential ties to it

• Avoid the costly penalties associated with customer satisfaction

• Establish a loyal customer following

• Path to Change.

Reengineering the current process of collecting and interpreting the Voice of the Customer does not mean tinkering with the current process, it means starting over. Or, it means asking the question: If I were recreating this project management service, what would it look like. It involves going back to the beginning and inventing a better way of collecting and interpreting the Voice of the Customer. The key question is how does a company reengineer its services? Where does it begin? Who becomes involved? Where do radical changes come from?

The answer lies in the definition of reengineering. Reengineering is the fundamental rethinking and radical redesign of business processes to achieve dramatic improvements in critical, contemporary measures of performance, such as cost quality, service, and speed. In the new world of collecting and interpreting the Voice of the Customer, we call this Value.

Adding Value

Using the added-value approach can give a company's service strategy a significant competitive leverage. Providing value to the customer, beyond price, makes it easier to create customer satisfaction and establish a loyal customer base.

The first step in reengineering the Voice of the Customer process is to conceptualize product improvements into two different types of value classifications. One is explicit value and the other is implicit.

The explicit value added approach is to develop the type of value we want to deliver to our customer that is noticed when the customer uses the project management service. The explicit value added approach is:

Figure 1.Customer FAST

Customer FAST

• Directly measurable

• Valuable to the customer in a clearly defined, developed and visible manner

• Convertible to dollars and cents

• Directed to meet and exceed the financial needs of the customer.

Explicit value is the service provider can perceive something. It is relatively easy to brainstorm. Some examples of the explicit value-added approaches are to shorten protect time line, early warning detection of late activities, reduced personnel, etc.

The implicit value added approach is to develop the type of value we want to deliver to our project management customer that helps them validate their purchase decision.

The implicit value added approach is:

• Value to the customer not directly revealed, expressed or developed

• Value not convertible to dollars

• Value directed to meet the image and performance needs of the customer or prospect.

Implicit customer value is something perceived by the customer and can take many forms. It is more difficult to create. Some examples of the implicit value added approaches are local project management personnel, technical support, detailed flow diagrams, templates, etc.

The best way to create both explicit and implicit customer values is to focus on and market your short-term and long-term sustainable competitive advantages. The structured tool that will help facilitates that process is the Customer FAST diagram.

Customer FAST

The customer FAST starts with a title of the service and two scope lines. The two scope lines contain everything that the service should do. The left-hand scope line separates the basic task or the essential function of the service from the higher order function is on the left of it. The relationship between the higher order function and the basic function is determined by asking why the basic function performs as it does them. The answer should be the higher order function. Asking how the higher order function performs must complete the logic check. The answer must be the basic function candidate.

Determining the basic function often requires selecting functions from the list of suggestions and applying the how and why questions. If the why question is answered by another identified function, that function is the next candidate for the basic function. The function to the right becomes a required secondary function. Once the basic function is verified, the remaining required secondary functions are identified. Every effort should be made to limit the total functions that answer the how and why questions from within the scope line. This group of functions makes up the critical path. It is still necessary to confirm the required secondary function to the left of the right hand scope line. When the how question is asked of this function, the answer will be an outside function candidate. The outside function is called Causative Function, since it really starts the critical path to the basic and higher order functions.

Figure 2. Basic Functions

Basic Functions

The last groups of functions are supporting functions. Supporting functions play an important role in discovering what would delight the customer. The supporting functions are Assure Convenience, Assure Dependability, Satisfy User, and Attract User.

Assure Convenience

Any function that:

• Contributes to spatial arrangement

• Facilitates maintenance and updates

• Furnishers instructions and directions to the user.

Assure Dependability

Any function that:

• Makes the service more robust

• Makes the service friendly to use

• Lengthens the life of the service and minimizes maintenance cost

• Ensures the reliability of the operation

• Protects the customer.

Satisfy User

Any function that:

• Modifies the basic function—faster, smaller, quicker, and etc.

• Offers psychological comfort

• Is desired or wanted by the customer and/or user

• Makes the project management service easy to use

• Makes life a little more pleasant.

Attract User

Any function that:

• Emphasizes the service aspect

• Projects a favorable image

• Fulfills the expectations of the customer and/or user

• Makes the project management service appear stronger in the opinion of the user and/or customer

• Utilizes a project management method that the customer and or user prefers.

The secondary supporting functions branch to the right from the primary supporting functions when the how question is applied. There must be two or more secondary functions to justify branching. Please see Figure 1. Customer FAST.

Example: Project Management

Basic Function

What is a project management service? The answer to this question is a set of verb—noun functions. The higher order function among all other functions should be the main reason that a customer buys this service. In this case, the main reason a customer buys a project management service is to:

• Plan

• Organize

• Staff

• Control

• Direct.

Figure 3. Primary and Secondary Functions

Primary and Secondary Functions

Figure 4. Assure Convenience

Assure Convenience

Primary Basic Functions

The next question we ask is how does a project management service plan a project. The answer is to define scope of the project. Before a project plan is established the project manager facilitates the other functional mangers in defining the scope of the project. An additional question in the Primary Basic Function phase is how does the project management service organize a project. The answer is that once the scope is identified, the project manager facilitates the other functional manager in developing the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS).

Figure 5. Assure Dependability

Assure Dependability

Primary and Secondary Function

The basic functions listed in Figure 2 are the primary level functions. Asking the question can expand these functions, how does the project manager control the scope of the project?

Change control process is established. Figure 3 is expanded to include some secondary functions.

Supporting Function

The supporting functions can be grouped into four categories and then secondary level supporting functions. The four categories are:

• Assure Convenience

• Assure Dependability

• Satisfy User

• Attract User.

Assure Convenience

To assure connivance to the customer so that we can make the project management service easy to interact with, the first question we can ask to assure convenience to the customer is how can we make the project management service easier to use? The answer to the question is to Minimize Disruption to development, Simplify Complexity, and Signal Late Activities. The next question we can ask to assure convenience to the customer is how can we Minimize Disruption to development? The answer is to make the Service Transparent and Integrate the Service with the primary development activity. See Figure 4.

Assure Dependability

To assure dependability to the customer so that the project management service more reliable to use, the question we can ask to assure dependability to the customer, is how can we make the project management service more reliable in its use? The answer is to Protect Data, Provide Security, and Provide Integrity. See Figure 5.

Satisfy User

To satisfy the user so that we can make the project management service used in any method that the user prefers and make the project management service more effective to use. The first question we can ask to satisfy the user, is how can we make the project management service more flexible so that the user can use it in the way they desire? The answer is Centralized Support and Distributed Support. The next question we can ask to satisfy the user, is how can we make the project management service more effective to use, the answer is to Provide Skill Consultants. See Figure 6.

Attract User

To attract the user so that we can make the project management service project a more favorable image, the first question we can ask to attract the user, is how can we make the project management service more visual? The answer is to Style Service and Add Color to Reports. The next question we can ask to attract the user is how can we make the project management Service project a favorable image. The answer is to Connote Status and Project Quality. See Figure 7.


Establishing functions and their relationships lays the foundations for any solution. Functions when properly defined and classified, lead the user in the right direction to analyze, speculate and evaluate. If we have modeled only the basic functions all we would have discovered is what the customer expects. However the excitement functions or pleasant surprises are also left unsaid by the customer. The customer will have trouble verbalizing the what's that were never experienced before. These pleasant surprises are known as excitement quality. These functions are facilitated by the Supporting Functions of the Customer FAST. These three types of quality (performance, basic and excitement) are represented on Figure 8 that plots the types of quality on a grid representing customer satisfaction vs. degree of achievement.

Figure 6. Satisfy User

Satisfy User

Figure 7. Attract User

Attract User

The value of any function within the Customer FAST must be judged in terms of its contribution to the customer, not for its individualized merit. To optimize a service, the basis of negations must begin between the customer, marketer, and service provider starting with and ending with the Customer FAST. If this approach is used, everyone gains. If the marketer and the service provider are expected to work had without managing the customer's expectation, the service is to doom to fail. Most companies’ effort to reengineer the gathering and interpreting the Voice of the Customer because traditional management thought does not appreciate services from customer driven functions.

This change in management requires a transformation. The transformation is not stamping out fires during the process of gathering and interpreting the Voice of the Customer. Rather, process participants who are willing to develop and deliver services around valued functions agreed upon the customer and supplier must lead the transformation.

Figure 8. Kano Model

Kano Model


Deming, W.E. 1986. Out of Crisis. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Hammer, Michael, and James Champy. 1993. Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution. New York: Harper Collins.

Snodgrass, Thomas J., and Kasi Muthiah. 1986. Function Analysis the Stepping Stones to Good Value. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin.

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

Proceedings of the Project Management Institute Annual Seminars & Symposium
November 1–10, 2001 • Nashville,Tenn.,USA



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