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Gold Plating Your Projects – A Simple Guide

Gold plating in development is a well known term seen as a negative thing. In project management it can however be a good thing, here’s how.

Project management training covers all areas of project management, with specialist areas of project management being covered by specific certifications, it also covers the many new and established terms within the field. Gold plating is a common term that you may have covered during your project management courses. It is most often used in terms of development, but it can also apply to project management as well.

What Does It Mean?

The concept in terms of development relates to adding functionality on top of the required amount of functionality determined by the project. This may be a functionality that goes above and beyond what would be considered practical. Basically, it is where the developer might continue working on the project well beyond when they need to, to try and better what has already been done even though they don’t need to. After doing this the customer could be extremely happy with what they have done, or they could not be affected either way, or they could be unhappy. In the case of them being unhappy or unaffected, the extra effort done to has proved pointless.

As a general rule, gold plating in development is considered a bad thing. It generally leads a team to do more work than they need to. Work that isn’t usually just ‘a bit extra’ but that has consequences, like the budget and timeline for the project being affected negatively. This is usually because the extra work hasn’t been planned, it hasn’t been budgeted or accounted for. It isn’t part of the project plan. It has not been requested by the customer, there isn’t anything in the plan asking for it to be done, no designated time slot – basically it is something that should be avoided.

Gold Plating & Project Management

With project management, gold plating is less of a familiar term, but it is a relevant one. The definition is less clear, but it definitely has a point, and could be something quite useful to add to your skillset as a PM. This is because there are lots of ways you can add value to a project without adversely affecting the budget or timeline.

In terms of project management, think of it in terms of ‘going the extra mile’, like in customer service. A good example would be the customer service training I received at a well known supermarket many years ago. A huge emphasis was placed on going the extra mile for every customer, because the extra effort was great for everyone, and it wouldn’t have any negative effect on the job we were doing. So if a customer approached us and asked us where the milk was, rather than pointing and explaining, we would walk them to where the milk was. If a customer was clearly in need of help, we would approach and help them. Just the little things that made their overall experience within the shop a better one. Of course this is very basic compared to project management, but it is relevant. You can easily bring some little extras to the project that the customer may not expect, but that they would want.

Thank You’s

There are various points within a project where you can say thank you to those who deserve it. This kind of recognition is so important and is easily forgotten about. Consider making a specific call to say thank you to team members who have done an amazing job, or to sponsors or stakeholders who have gone above and beyond in their involvement with the project.

Follow Ups

During meetings notes should be taken by everyone involved if the meeting is important. To keep communication well oiled, it is a great idea to document what has happened during the meeting and then send those notes to everyone who was there within a day of the meeting. This ensures everyone is on the same page, and shows the customer that you are happy to reinforce the communication this way. It also allows any issues with what was discussed or decided during the meeting, to be discussed again if anyone has any issues.

Involving Management

The project customer will feel like their project is more important if authority figures are at some of their meetings. Ensure that the management you bring along fully understands the project at hand before the meeting so they can be involved in the discussion. Although the management member may not be an ‘active’ part of the project, the fact they are at the meeting will look really good to the customer.

Project Status Display

If you can create something where the customer can see the project status and health at a glance, you will make them very happy. They will feel able to monitor the project and it will also save you time and energy because they won’t be asking you questions all the time. There are project management apps that would enable you to create something like this. Ideally you could use something that is very simple to look at, that doesn’t use any jargon. Look to put across the information in a clear and concise way.

Help The Customer Prepare For Tests

You cannot help the customer too much when it comes to them doing the UAT, but there’s nothing wrong with giving them some generic preparation tips and advice so they can do the UAT without any issues.

Lay The Foundations For A Continued Relationship

It is important to remain ever-open to a continued relationship with a customer. Obviously your organisation will benefit from the continued business, but the customer will gain from the work you do to make their organisation gain strength whether they are a newly established business still growing and developing or a well-established company.

As a PM you should always be looking for more work, but you have to be careful not to just look like a sales person who isn’t looking out for the best interests of the customer – this is a big turn off. Be sure to act professionally and don’t suggest further work unless there is an obvious need for a new project. Look to remain in contact, but don’t try to make sales brazenly.




One thought on “Gold Plating Your Projects – A Simple Guide

  1. All too often project managers to end up gold plating, but not on purpose the gold plating just emerges as a result of the changes that emerge and the project develops

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