I wish understanding clients was an easy job. I also wish clients would be more understanding. Neither of my wishes have come true very often, at the same time, business continues to expand, which makes me think there is a way around.
These thoughts come into my mind on a day I spent with two different clients. For both, I’m working on complex software projects to create custom information systems that meet their requirement. To do this, our teams have met several times, many design ideas were floated, mockups prepared and changes made as per their requirements. All steps of pre-defined SLDC (Software Development Life Cycle) is being followed, project plans are regularly updated etc.
In the first case, it’s becoming impossible to understand the clients. They keep shifting their goals, they’re hesitant to confirm or not confirm decisions and there are unexplained delays in providing inputs from their end. There is a tendency to finally accept what was being proposed at the beginning but after much delay,debate and discussion. I had a strange experience today when one of their senior team members openly accepted in the meeting, after being cornered, that he had never spent time on the project and had no idea about what work had been done. This, after extending the deadline for over a month and half ! It lead me to say that our team couldn’t wait for his inputs, which anyways hadn’t been worthwhile. Instead of supporting the project teams to move things forward, the clients team decided to focus on this non-issue and wasted another opportunity to progress the project. It’s impossible to guess what they want !
In the second half of the day, I spent time trying to make the other client understand the large picture. They are clear about their requirements, we understand them well too but they don’t want to provide the required time to complete the project. According to them, they need the project ready in two weeks when it will take over two months to complete. There is no shortcut possible and increasing manpower allotment to the project won’t reduce the timeline. They have no choice but to give us the time, however, instead of understanding, the client chooses to further complicate the situation by bringing forth additional requirements and ideas ! In this case, I need a way to make the client more understanding.
I’ve handled situations like these before. In both the situations, the first step is to refuse to give up. I won’t let these clients go unsatisfied, I can’t change their levels of understanding and I can’t say no to their requirements. The way around is to use a combination of some powerful tools – time, hard work, smartness, bright ideas, patience and persuasiveness. The projects will go through and these very clients will be our top salesmen, its just a matter of time.
The only thing that will remain unresolved will be understanding clients !