By Monique LaForce
Deliverables are the “quantifiable goods or services . . . provided upon the completion of a project.” In the context of reference and research services, deliverables are the results produced by a research librarian that are given to a requestor.
Deliverables are a key component of a library’s client service. Producing excellent deliverables requires both researching the information given in response to a request and packaging that information to the requestor. This article raises considerations for the librarian when determining how to present the end results of a research project.
- Deliverables are the essence of a project. All the client sees is the final product delivered to her. She doesn’t see the hours of effort that may have gone into finding and compiling the information – only what is presented to her. Thus, the final project is important – it is the critical link between a researcher and his client.
- Deliverables should be clear, responsive, easy to read and understand, and accurate. A requestor should not have to dig through a pile of material (paper or electronic) to find what she is looking for. The information requested should respond accurately to the request, and be clearly labeled and presented.
- Deliverables should be proportional to the request they respond to. Deliverables should be proportional not only to any budget allocated for a request, but also to the request itself. Verifying a court phone number doesn’t warrant creating a PowerPoint presentation. A simple email, text message, or telephone call should suffice. Likewise, a request for an in-depth company profile will likely merit additional packaging, perhaps including an executive summary of findings, charts, a written report, and exhibits.
- Deliverables should provide source information. The source of the information contained in a deliverable should be noted. Generally the information in a deliverable will be used by the client in another context (for example, incorporated into an article, brief, or pitch) and the requestor may need to reference or refer back to the original source material.
- Deliverables vary by project and may evolve as a project proceeds. The format for a deliverable may be dictated by the person making an information request. She may specifically request a book, a chart, a pleading, or a summary email. Often, the deliverable will vary depending upon the information located. For example, if a researcher is compiling outcomes of a certain type of case brought against a particular litigant, the deliverable may look very different if there are only three lawsuits matching the relevant criteria, as opposed to 300. Time and budget constraints may also dictate a deliverable’s format.
- Deliverables should always meet client expectations. What is delivered to a client varies depending upon what is requested, as outlined above, but deliverables should meet the client’s expectations each and every time they are presented. Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles argue in their 1993 book, Raving Fans, that it is far better to meet expectations on all levels consistently rather than to exceed expectations sometimes or only in some areas. According to Blanchard and Bowles, always meeting expectations creates a trust that elevates a customer to a “raving fan.” Meeting client expectations may require communication with the client at the outset of or throughout a project in order to calibrate those expectations (if, for example, the information the requestor seeks is not publicly available or cannot be obtained within the client’s budget or deadline).
Deliverables are a key component of the relationship between research librarian and patron and the manner in which they are presented should be carefully considered and well-executed to provide excellent client service.