How may projects have you been in when it didn’t turn out as expected? Or rather, how many projects have indeed delivered what everyone really wanted?
Having worked in the IT business for almost a decade now, there’s seems to be the same problem with almost every project: people choose technology and tools from what they know (and sometimes, want to get to know), instead of focusing on the project’s and the customer’s needs.
Way too many sales conversation go like this:
Customer: We want to have a web site for our company.
Sales guy: Great! Super! Outstanding! We have this amazing Content Management System we work with, and it will be fantastic, dirt cheap, and delivered yesterday!
WRONG! Analyze the customer’s needs!
Customer: We’re not sure what we want, but we heard about your company, and…
Sales guy: Swell! We have this impossible-to-beat package offer which will get you going in no-time!
WRONG! Perhaps, just maybe, talking it through with the customer might be a good start.
Try the customer’s perspective
Of course I’m (slightly) exaggerating with my examples (well, maybe not with the sales guy), but the gist of it is that there are numerous projects where the company doing the delivering part solely think out of what programming languages they like or know, what environments they prefer, partnership they might have with a system provider or any other factor that the customer really doesn’t care about.
How many web sites do you think are out there because someone somewhere had a tad too strong fascination with a certain Content Management System, where the end result is at best moderately sufficient? Why would anyone think, really, that a tool, out of the box, will be optimal for their customer?
Sure, there are cases where the environment is already there, and the programming criteria as well, but that also means that the situation is still wide open to focus on user experience, finding the best product suited to what’s actually needed or coming to the conclusion that in this situation it would be best to completely customize a tool within the development team.
So, please, next time you talk to a customer, try to sincerely find out what they need, as opposed to your or your group’s current offerings.
A little anecdote
This is hearsay, since I myself wasn’t present at the meeting, but I once had a manager doing an important presentation to some customers. It went very well, and feeling (a bit too) relieved, he decides to, in all friendliness, say:
This feels like I’m giving you all a blow-job
Needless to say, the customers went from interested to very reluctant within a very short moment.
Moral to the story: Don’t give them what you’re willing to offer, instead find out what they want.