You Can’t Always Get What You Want or Can You?

And no, you can’t always get what you want
No, you can’t always get what you want
Well, no, you can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need, baby
Rolling Stones – You Can’t Always Get What You Want

First blog of the year, inspired by conversations and observations. Three stories I’d like to share.

Mr. Play It Safe was afraid to fly
He packed his suitcase and kissed his kids goodbye
He waited his whole damn life to take that flight
And as the plane crashed down he thought
“Well isn’t this nice…”
And isn’t it ironic… don’t you think

Alanis Morissette – Ironic

Scene 1:

Client Relationship Manager: “The client isn’t happy. They believe the project doesn’t satisfy their acceptance criteria”

Me: “I don’t remember them sharing acceptance criteria”

CRM: “They are drafting them for a meeting tomorrow”

Me: “You get the irony of this conversation, right?”

How on earth do we get to a point where this conversation can happen? Software vendors don’t work in a vacuum. We build software because clients believe the changes will improve their ability to conduct business, improve their profitability. As much as we know our software, and we know our industry, we don’t intimately know everything about the clients business. We call it the “clients business” because it belongs to them. Do they not have a responsibility to have some input? I truly want to help clients by delivering them high quality software, I don’t want to own or run their business.

Lessons: You cannot underestimate the value of bringing the client on the journey.

Create and maintain a partnership mindset.

But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood

The Animals – Don’t let me be misunderstood

Scene 2:

The meeting is held, the acceptance criteria delivered. I wasn’t part of the meeting so my involvement was ex posto facto. On reading them I was surprised. The acceptance criteria were in reality a series of very high level, broad statements. We could use these criteria and claim we had met them. Equally we could also mount a case that we had not satisfied them. It was a great reminder that we need to work with our clients, guide them to provide the kind of information we find valuable. There was a surprising delta between what I expected and what I saw. Time wasted by the client. Waste that can be prevented.

Lessons : If you have specific information requirements, be explicit about them. Ensure they are understood.  High quality information from the client allows us to more specifically build them high quality software that provides real value

You cannot underestimate the value of bringing the client on the journey.

Create and maintain a partnership mindset.

Is there anybody out there?
Would you hear me if I screamed or if I cried?
I am looking for an answer

Pink Floyd – Is there any body out there

Scene 3:

“The client is frustrated with the way we are communicating with them”

I’m actually quoting someone but I’m guessing this is not a one time unique utterance. I’ve heard it before, words might differ, the meaning remains the same.

I have a communication structure that I believe works. It’s not unique, I didn’t create it, you’ll nod acknowledgement as you read it. Communicate in the following order:

face to face, phone call, e-mail.

Face to face – body language, eye contact, immediacy, personal warmth and do not understate that many people will recognise that you have made a special effort. How much better is it to run a white board session in an office while working through problems with your client? Sure, you can run a whiteboard session using an on-line app, but chances are you will experience very little of the dynamics and relationship building you experience when compared to face to face outcomes. I’ve dealt with clients that can really rant and rave over the phone line. Face to face it never happened. Proximity and other dynamics remove this and the meetings are far more productive.

I have found a level of resistance to organising face to face meetings. It’s expected of Consultants and Client Relationship Managers. Beyond that clients are often reticent. It drags people away from their “core activities” (business speak for these people are now generating cost rather than revenue). That’s, in my book, a very limited consideration of the game in progress. My experience tells me that phone calls, while generally shorter in duration than a meeting, will be far greater in number and frequency. They will also feature a reduction in absorption of information. Is this a low cost option – not in my opinion. E-mails, forget them, except when there is no other choice, and then, follow up with higher quality communication. I rarely e-mail colleagues these days, I prefer to walk to a desk and interact with a person.

As a business we need to work with our clients and understand how we most efficiently generate value for them. We need to examine old habits, perhaps ones we have trained them to adopt across years of business.

Software vendors often get blamed for failures. Clients under pressure, wanting a solution but not the one they outlined with their requirements. Vendor clients under pressure from third party business because the software solution is to service them. Humans look to deflect criticism and defend their turf by pointing the finger at “next in the line”. My experience is that significant fault lies on both sides. In itself that is immaterial. The real challenge is for vendor and client to build a strong relationship, move beyond blame and focus on quality.

Lessons: What you say and HOW you say it is important. Not all forms of communication are equal.

You cannot underestimate the value of bringing the client on the journey.

Create and maintain a partnership mindset.

That’s it folks. Thanks for stopping by. Hopefully I’ll see you again soon.






One thought on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want or Can You?

  1. Hi Paul, I think you missed one important point in communications that being the old “write it down”. I prefer a document, either typed on paper or a computer and shared between everybody with this product development which, at the beginning, provides the customers and the development goals posts. My experience indicates that very few customers know or understand what they want. Oh yes they have a vague idea of the model required with little or no concept of the difficulty or practicality of achieving the “dream”. I can never imagine starting on a journey without a defined goal. An old picture comes to mind of an old outside toilet with the message, “The job is not complete until the paper work is done”. Maybe the message should also state that a job can’t start until you have a paper to read?”
    Not your problem, but how is the task costed and quoted without a specification?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s