Wednesday, October 3, 2012

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Keeping the right mindset at the client: 3 things to remember

1. The Client-Consultant arrangement is called a relationship for a reason.

Always keep in mind that you are there to improve the clients condition. Stay focused on adding value and delivering precisely what you said you would. If you hold up your end of the bargain a good client will hold up theirs. In the future when they are looking to expand their operations or create new applications they will come back to the company and the consultants that they know they can trust. It is very easy to tell who really cares and who is in it to make a quick buck.

2. Mentor the client resources so long as helps , and does not hinder, the delivery of your obligation

It should be immediately obvious that helping client resources (such as analysts and developers) improve their skill sets will be of immediate value to the client. We are always looking to add value. The flip side of this is that there will come a time when the client resource is too far behind or just incapable of grasping the needs for the project at hand. If mentoring the resource risks the agreed upon fulfillment of the contract to the client then you are really not adding value. In this case you must make the client aware of the situation. That being said, if the statement of work includes the mentoring of the client resource then the coaching is part of the deliverable. If that is the case then get to work!

3. Expanding the client scope yourself does not necessarily add value and it threatens the projects success. 

As developers going into a system we did not write the initial reaction is often "blow it up and start over". If the scope of the project was to add functionality to a system then trying to rewrite it from scratch could be a costly mistake. When tying into underlying systems avoid the temptation to improve systems that will work as is. The systems may not be ideal, the functions may not be perfect, but so long as they function and work within the constraints of the project then leave them alone. On the flip side if you are enhancing or adding functionality to an existing project and something threatens the overall quality of the finished product (as it pertains to your enhancement) then feel free to leave it better than your found it. This is a fine line to walk. Quick wins (caching strategies) can be easy wins that make you look like a rock star. On the flip side changing something that doesn't have to be changed can leave you with mud on your face when the client gets a load of new defect on a feature unrelated to your enhancement. 
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