Lessons learnt from client facing

Last Friday, I met a prospective client to have a little chat about some problems the business had, what they would like changed to their current system, and what their expectations were.

The meeting went really well, but as is always the case with business, one is not at liberty to discuss various aspects of the requirements process. It may give a competitor insight into current processes, and hence an advantage. Business intelligence is now so important, that most companies are pretty much like a micro version of the Ministry of Defence when it comes to their information and processes.

This was a first for me because I’m usually the back end server guy and not a schmoozer. The meeting went on for over an hour-and-a-half, as we ‘drilled down’ to the requirements process, modelling and analysis. I happened to have had a mock up application prepared, which was excellent because it illustrated my competencies i.e. they could see something that worked, and also a good conceptual springboard. My overall impression was that they were impressed with my demonstration, but I made the mistake of trying to wow them with technical proficiency. I did however make the following observations.

  • At no point was the fact that I was using the latest Office 2007 user interface, and really pretty icons come into the discussion. The points I was grilled about (and it was a grilling) was what was missing. Can you make it do this? Can you make it do that? We are unable to proceed with this unless you address issue x and y and z. This basically mitigated the dichotomy in choosing either Windows Forms or Windows Presentation Foundation.
  • Always make sure when your are dealing with decision makers and senior management to include lots of statistics. I did have a couple of forms with various statistics, but changed the demo around a bit before the meeting just to structure it better and these were missing. The less you have to explain in a meeting and the more you have to show the better. A picture is worth a thousand words and management love statistics. I will be holding secondary meetings and this is an area I will be fully up to speed on. Charting , gauges, etc.
  • Try to make sure that your application is clever, and has features. By this I mean ensure it does as much of the repetitive stuff as possible. Clever insofar as with windows forms for example, the designer does a lot of the tedious stuff like creating a button and aligning it. Features insofar as a mobile phone with a camera, radio, .mp3 player etc
  • It is so important that a user gets predicable behaviour from your components. I had not enabled copy and paste in my data grid view and then one of the users tried to it did not work. Not a big deal, but again I needed to explain why not
  • Don’t include too many half baked features, that throw unhandled exceptions. My demo threw a few of these and it did not look so good. The program crashed and froze and I needed to restart

So all in all not a too exhaustive list but a post I will revisit and hopefully add to.

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