Commissioned Projects

If the project is a commissioned one, the longer the gap between starting a project and delivering the finished product, the more prone you are to the client's problems. If the client is inexperienced, take longer with them to make sure they understand the process (maybe get them to read this book), and take special care to make sure the issues are prioritized in the order they require them rather than the sequence that is most expedient to you.

Having ironed out the specs and released an injection of money, the client has a great deal of time to reflect on what he should really have asked for. He will often try to insinuate subsequent changes at no extra cost. Changes in legislation, economics, or the client firm's own internal circumstances can also alter a client's requirements. However, even without pressures like these, few clients are able to visualize what it is they really commissioned. That is why you are developing the program and he is the client.

Clients certainly know what they dislike when they see it and will articulate. Sometimes they exaggerate because they fear you will ignore them otherwise. Sometimes they may not hit the nail square on the head. Listen very carefully and take notes on the spot, writing down all the key points verbatim. Listen not just to what they say but also to what they may be trying to say. When you get back to your desk, think it through from their point of view and work out what is to their best advantage.

By far the most compromising situation for a middle management client is when he or she gets taken literally. They realize things aren't working as they should. They may also realize that the software is working exactly as they specified. They are also aware that someone else higher up in their organization is bound to spot the deficiency and blame them. The criticism may be trivial or it may be a showstopper. My advice is not to make a fuss. Volunteer there and then to put the matter right. Afterwards, augment the bill fairly but discreetly. The person you are dealing with will appreciate that you have got them off the hook and that your company has provided what their company needs. They are very likely to be grateful.

However, be aware that mistakes may also be laid fairly and squarely at your door. You aren't infallible either. If you find that you have indeed made an error, accept responsibility and put the matter right as soon as possible. If, on the other hand, what is being asked for is a genuine change, remind your client tactfully that provisions were made for additional costs when the specs were agreed upon. It was to minimize the need for extras that you carefully read through each item together. Do your best not to get into this situation in the first place. If you do, iron out the problem at an early stage by showing the client the program as you build it.

Showing the client builds as you go is a bit like showing expectant parents photographs of the fetus inside the womb; it's not such a surprise when a boy or a girl arrives. Whenever a client asks for anything new or novel, clever software houses win their client's approval on an installment basis by demonstrating progressive builds or prototypes. The client will then appreciate from the outset that you cannot deliver a bull's eye the first time any more than he can give you a complete brief in every respect. Sharing progress makes clients feel that they are part of the creative process, and once you have got them on your side, you may be surprised how imaginative and supportive they can be.

Unless the solution is highly technical, the best person to demonstrate builds to a client is usually the project manager. He usually has the greatest understanding of the client's needs and the software being developed.

Whenever a client asks for a novel feature, appreciate that by producing it you may also be solving other people's problems too. Consider whether it is in your best interests to charge your current client for the entire development or to share the cost among others yet to come. Consider the extra time it will take to produce a standalone and what else your firm may wish to do with its time. Give thought also to what the market will bear.

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Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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