Understanding Clients

I’m functional.  I get in the door knowing the business processes of my software, showing experience in industries and implementation types, and exuding contagious confidence in my abilities.  Extensions and call-backs come from performing the above and building positive relationships with the client and my peers.  I make my real money not from just knowing the software, but by working closely with the client to make sure that their expectations of the software are reasonably met.

I get paid for understanding and working with people.  There are volumes published on this subject and the true professionals on this subject aren’t software consultants.  So I’ll try to focus on where you and I fit in an engagement and how we can understand and work with people.

Why are we hired?

  1. Project Experience
  2. Familiarity with the software and the modules assigned
  3. We interview well

So what does that mean to those who hire us?

  1. They gain confidence that this complex course that they are on, can be navigated with our help. We are the engine that simplifies the process.
  2. They believe in our ability to do tasks they personally don’t understand
  3. They think that we will be able to give them all our knowledge and leave behind a well oiled machine.

So we dive in with our own or the clients methodology, we meet our counterparts and we begin forming the group that is to drive this huge project to completion.  This is where it gets human in a hurry!  All change is resisted.  Let me repeat that.  All change is resisted.  The comfort or discomfort of the known is always perceived as preferable to the untried.

Our job is change and the client is in the present.  You know were this is going even before I get wound up, because you’ve lived this several times already.  The client wants things the way it is, we want it ‘vanilla’.  We make decisions every day and enjoy making them.  The client cringes with each decision and revisits most of them 5-10 times after making them.  We know the ‘best practice’ and that the software itself is built upon those best processes.  The client knows ‘better practice’ because that’s how it always worked at their company.  We are immediately at odds with the folks we work most closely with.  It’s time to put on your psychology major and start the dance.

Now your going to tell me you didn’t even study psychology?  Maybe the study wasn’t formal, but you certainly gained experience through living.  It’s hand-holding 401, debate 200, leadership 360.  It’s all those courses that teach us to get along with others.  We listen, we question, we understand, we listen some more, we act on our understanding and we listen again.  We bring the client along with reasoning and calmness.  You study your counterpart so that you know when they are with you and when they are not.  You study the leadership to know what you can push and what you can’t.  You study the end-users to know their expectations and their resistance to change.  And you plunge ahead with confidence and a soft voice, constantly looking behind to make sure someone is following.

Our job is understanding the client.  The software doesn’t change much, but the client does.  Those of us who excel as functional consultants relate to the client in all their varieties and forms.

And if one day she comes to you, drink deeply from her words so wise
Take courage from her as your prize and say hello for me

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