In my consulting career I’ve worked about half the time on new projects, and half the time on existing projects that needed to be revived. In the latter case, a particularly common pattern was that business people without enough technical acumen to oversee the code hired developers, typically non-local and/or off-shore, to “develop” the application, just to find out that what they were getting was not quite what they had hoped for; they were asked to make decisions they didn’t understand, and generally there was a big gap of expectations. The typical outcome was an over budget and over schedule situation with less than hoped for business value. In the former situation, where I came in from scratch, one of my primary concerns has always been how to plot my own exit without leaving the client in the lurch.
Presentations at BizConf
Leave Them Better Than You Found Them: How to Ensure Client ContinuityThursday, August 05, 2010 at 6:00 PM
As consultants, by definition, there is no expectation on either side that we are on a project for life. What can we do to ensure a smooth transition and operational continuity for the client? How does the client come to feel they’re better off than before and the application delivers real business value? After all, as Randall Thomas eloquently put at BizConf 2009, we are selling value, and our consulting businesses thrive mostly by referrals from happy clients. So what are the questions we should ask? What is required from the client? And what should we do to make sure this happens?
I’m drawing this presentation from two sides of the fence: On one side where I was on the development early. Part of my job was to ensure a proper transition so that the client. I needed them to be able to make their baby grow and thrive on their own. The other side where I was called in by exasperated clients for rescue missions of applications gone awry. Their contract developers had left them with the software equivalent of expensive paperweights.
Here is what I’ve learned in what to look for, to make sure my back is covered and I’m not the one leaving my clients with expensive paperweights carrying my own letter head.
Just like consultants, clients come in all shapes. It’s important to understand whether a client’s profile fits the consultant’s offering and capabilities. Well-funded clients with their own technical staff are different from DIY clients, which are different from well-connected but non-technical business people that want to create a startup. Who is available to maintain the project after the contract is complete? What are the ongoing and future needs? Who is in charge of setting priorities? And in the client’s mind what are we there to do? These are all questions better asked earlier than later.
Finally, the client is not equal to the project. A project within a client’s expertise is a different affair than a project that represents a foray into a whole new territory for the client. Is the required expertise covered? Has the business homework been done? Do they understand the concept of Minimally Viable Product? Who is watching the budget?
Perhaps some lucrative looking jobs come with so many constraints that it’s a win-lose proposition. Perhaps some jobs are better referred elsewhere. Perhaps some jobs are too large or too small.
This is an interactive session where we develop client and project checklists to understand how and where we can serve them, produce outcomes that are win-win and address our clients’ need for continuity. Then, we happily leave on good terms.
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