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Are you also concerned about these issues? Only those three answers divide your company from success. So little and yet so much! Even despite having a lot of experience in running projects, a lot of effort must be made to achieve the goal
Addressing all of the above-mentioned issues is based on one common denominator, which is of course good and transparent communication. Unfortunately, even despite working with the best team, the most respectable project may collapse and become a disaster. Why? Due to the lack of good communication between the contractor and the ordering party. What to do to make it smooth and effective? Below you will find some important points that you should pay attention to which will help you better understand customer expectations. Enjoy!
Before I dare to write more about more efficient and better communication, let me recommend Michał Bartyzel's book “Customized software. How to talk to a client who doesn't know what he wants. "* It is a good basis for better communication with the potential customer. First of all, because the author shows two worlds: programmers who think and focus on technical terms and a client who follows a purely business perspective. I am tempted to say that the book is an encyclopedia of entrepreneur`s knowledge, useful not only for project managers, but also for programmers themselves. A deep reading allows you to look at what programmers do, for whom and for what purpose. The undoubted advantage of the book is the author's professional experience, which prompted him to write it. Thanks to that, it shows problems based on real situations, additionally providing many valuable tips. As you know, man learns best from mistakes. But why learn from our failures when we can use other people's experience?Before I dare to write more about more efficient and better communication, let me recommend Michał Bartyzel's book “Customized software. How to talk to a client who doesn't know what he wants. "* It is a good basis for better communication with the potential customer. First of all, because the author shows two worlds: programmers who think and focus on technical terms and a client who follows a purely business perspective. I am tempted to say that the book is an encyclopedia of entrepreneur`s knowledge, useful not only for project managers, but also for programmers themselves. A deep reading allows you to look at what programmers do, for whom and for what purpose. The undoubted advantage of the book is the author's professional experience, which prompted him to write it. Thanks to that, it shows problems based on real situations, additionally providing many valuable tips. As you know, man learns best from mistakes. But why learn from our failures when we can use other people's experience?
Even if he thinks he knows what he desires, during the business conversation many questions will arise that he was not aware of. It should be remembered that how the project starts and ends depends mainly on the contractors. They are like guides who lead the client through the IT jungle. As professionals who deal with programming, they should outline a path of cooperation so that the client feels safe, taken care of and can work together towards the goal.
To better understand the client's needs, we should spend even several hours writing down common assumptions that are necessary for the creation of a new Web or Mobile application, ERP or CRM system. The assumptions affect the overall project, so they should not be underestimated. It is best to offer the client several meetings that will be held at intervals. Thanks to that the potential customer have an occasion to rethink all the pre-discussed issues. Establishing assumptions during one meeting is impossible, because during various stages of implementation, new issues arise that we may not have touched upon before. So spending a few more hours writing them down can be beneficial for the success of the project and prevent possible discrepancies between the contracting authority and the contractor.
Another important thing is the apparent conversation about the "same", that is, the art of asking questions and the appropriate nomenclature. It often happens that the client and the contractor have different understanding of the issues discussed. That is why it is so important to formulate very precise questions. The course of the discussion can be illustrated with a funnel. The initial questions are quite general, and our task is to ask them in such a way that the client gives very accurate answers. Following the "thread to ball" principle.
Keep in mind that you may inadvertently suggest an answer by asking questions. For example, if you ask about problems, the interviewee will talk about the problems. If you ask about the benefits, the interviewee will talk about the benefits. You have to be very careful about it, because when this happens, instead of finding out more about the client's needs, you will hear an echo of your thoughts.
Whoever speaks more? The one who speaks louder or maybe someone who can quickly and effectively convince you to be right? Or maybe the one who actually conducts the conversation? Indeed, the one who asks questions! Asking the right questions allows you to conduct the conversation in a controlled manner and make it as effective as possible in terms of the acquired requirements. The second most important aspect of conducting a conversation is deeply studying the client domain. In the literal sense of the word. You should focus your thinking on the business perception of the product from the customer's point of view, otherwise you will not be creating the application, software or product for the customer, but for yourself. We all know who the last recipient of the software is and who is paying for it. Each time before you ask a question about the usefulness of the functionalities, ask yourself whether such features will be necessary for the client…
Remember that the vocabulary should be taken from the client's industry language. In practice, this translates into the use of the same terms, understood in the same way, taking into account the same business context. Don't be afraid to ask questions if something is unclear for you. The cooperation is to be beneficial for both parties, because the end of the day your customers will use the application and should be satisfied with it.
From the very beginning of your business meetings, which also includes the offering stage, it is very important to precisely specify and express properly. The client and the contractor can understand the same concept in two ways. Therefore, listen carefully and learn from the client his nomenclature from the very first meeting. Introduce it to your conversations as soon as possible, because such use will quickly translate into better understanding. At every stage of cooperation, the client must feel that he is talking to professionals who understand his business perfectly, taking into account his suggestions.
Often, several people work simultaneously on more complex projects on the client's side. They participate in meetings, contribute their observations and thoughts, submit comments, etc. They are certainly very valuable for the project. It should be taken into account that the final system, application or software is created not only for one person, but for the entire team, and often for the end customers. Moreover, by inviting people from various departments to meetings, we also involve them in the development of the application. Such people feel important, appreciated and identified with the software from the very beginning of the application development.
The presented form of cooperation is very good because it allows you to get to know the point of view and thinking of people in various positions. Often these are people responsible for completely different tasks, which will have to harmonize overall for the application to be complete and meet customer requirements. It is also worth emphasizing that the process of implementing the software in the company will run smoothly and effectively, because we will have "our representatives" on the client's side. During the implementation of the software to the company, they will act as consultants and answer questions in the event of ambiguity.
It is important that these people are delegated to run the project on a permanent basis and that they regularly participate in meetings. Any new visitor without knowing the context and assumptions can unfortunately become disorganized. New people often want to prove themselves and make comments. Sometimes they are not right and are likely to conflict with the project's assumptions. In addition, the situation will be a waste of time as the person will require additional attention, implementation and dependency clarification, so let`s be careful with picking and keeping the right people assigned.
Then who is the most appropriate person to run a project on the client side? There is no single correct answer to this. The client knows best who in the company has the appropriate project management competences. It is important that it is a person in a higher position, with more experience, who knows all the ills and problems "inside out". It is a kind of guarantee for the contractor that the representative will not be changed during the project implementation
With whom shall we make arrangements when many people can attend meetings?
In short, with a person whom the client will appoint as responsible for the project and will enter it into the contract. The key to the successful completion of the project is the client's delegation of one person responsible for contact and arrangements. It is a kind of intermediary with whom we share information and insights of the entire team. His task is to verify all comments and filter them before passing them on to the ordering party.
Each stage of the project implementation is very important and categorizing them is pointless. It does not change the fact that collecting assumptions has a significant impact on the success of the project implementation. A solidly prepared specification will allow you to avoid misunderstandings, close the project in the budget and complete the work on time. Thanks to good communication, we will be able to prepare solid assumptions. Overall, this will make both sides happy.
Customer needs are the reason why they want new functionalities and will pay for your work. If you understand what business needs are hidden behind the expected functionalities, you will also understand what the business appreciates the most. These needs are nothing but the business values of functionality. Instead of focusing on the needs of the business, it's easiest to talk about functionalities because they are tangible. That's why it's so easy to make a mistake.
The best solution for clarifying the needs is to draw the flow of information. It can be a drawing or a functional mock up. However, it comes down to one, which is User Story. Something that allows you to easily present how the user should use the system and what benefits it will bring. The undoubted value of User Story is the fact that it is clear to both contractors and contracting authorities.
If you can correctly name the expected benefits, you will understand the client better and the conversation will become more dynamic and specific. It is quite easy to name the benefits, as they fit into the example schemes
The basic questions in discovering needs are:
This is nothing more than the prioritizing work in business analysis that is needed to create software. We use it to achieve understandings between the design assumptions and the individual stages, in order to define the order of work and determine the most important components.
Let`s stop theorizing. How does it work in practice? Time is a very important factor in application development. That is why it is so important to prioritize the development of the MVP version and its further stages. For this purpose, the MoSCoW method works well. The abbreviation is taken from:
Must have - describes the requirements that must be met in the final solution
Should have - these are requirements that are necessary, but not necessary, for the development of the application
Could have - requirements that would be good to have
Won`t have (there is no need to have)- they are the least necessary, profitable and needed at the moment
A few easy requirements can increase customer satisfaction while keeping the cost low.
As we can see in the article above, many factors influence customer communication. There is no golden rule for perfect communication and it is impossible to exhaust the topic in one article. It is worth remembering that we can draw knowledge not only from experience, but also from books. Although the literature on this topic is extensive, it does not fully exhaust the questions about better communication. It only brings us closer to the answers and shows effective ways of talking and making assumptions. Certainly, the above tips will show us a better way and help us become more effective interlocutors.
Undoubtedly, I encourage you to read and deepen your knowledge about better communication with the client, as it has a huge impact on the success of the project.
As Ultimate Systems, we have extensive experience in working with companies representing diversified industries. We create dedicated business solutions in the form of mobile and web applications. If you need help and are looking for a proven contractor - please contact us.
Źródło: Michał Bartyzel, Oprogramowania szyte na miarę. Jak rozmawiać z klientem który nie wie, czego chce, Gliwice 2015