Are We Asking The Right Questions?

… or more importantly: Can we provide the right answers?

From my experience over the last 22 Months with T-Systems the answer is clearly: No

But why?

When consulting my clients, I try to follow a few simple steps to reach out and identify their actual needs and the resoning behind them.

1. Listen

Most solutions and discussions with our customers show me one thing about how we talk with the people that pay us: We do not listen to their needs. Most of the time we try to sell our “one size fits all” soultions. In 90% of the cases this “one size” won’t fit. ever.

It is much easier to let our customers do the talking and just listen to their goals, their pain points, their situation and what they think they need at first.

2. Understand

We are all experts at something. At least I still hope so. We have a certain perspective based on our daily work. This perspective is unlikely the same our customer’s.

There’s a simple reason fot that: Most of the time I do not have the slightest idea of you my client’s businesses really work, on the other hand, I don’t have to. To be honest, my customers usually don’t know what I do either.

My job ist to provide the best possible solution based on requirements, business context, technology and budget. For that I need to know why my client makes decision the way he does.

For that I just ask “why”. I question the process, the reasoning, the history of a product, … pretty much everything. Not to intimidate my client, but to understand how he got to this point and the requirements he formulated for a future solution.

3. Advise

As soon, as I know my client’s reasoning, I can give a useful advise… or ask more questions. This advise has to be useful for the client and aimed towards solving the current task (or project) and fulfilling underlying requirements. This does not necessarily include any portfolio elements, if they won’t help in the solution.

Three little steps towards better understanding and scoping a project task. And still I end up in situations, where project managers and migration specialists have been arguing with each other and the customer representatives about an issue and it’s possible solutions for months until they end up in a deadlock and finally involve a third party (that would be me) to resolve this situation.

In some cases, on of the discussed solutions turnes out to be the best fit as soon as the right questions have been asked, but the worst case at this point would be to start from scratch and redesign large parts of the projects.

So much for my thoughts on this topic. How about your’s?