"Managing Expectations" - South Dakota Code Camp, November 2011


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Tim Schoffelman's presentation to South Dakota Code Camp about working with clients and managing reasonable expectations.

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  • \n
  • How many people in your department?\nWhat kind of work do you produce?\n\nThis is going to be a discussion vs. a “session”\n\nAlso, what struggles do you have at work?\n\nIs it with:\n- The Client?\n- The You?\n- The Your Team?\n
  • Communication is key (everyone, EVERYONE, just wants their problem solved. Best to solve it before you have to listen to them (joke).)\n\nGather Requirements & Ask the Tough Questions\nPut together a scope. \n- How detailed should the scope be? How big is their budget? \n- How grandiose is their vision? \n- How vague are they and when asked detailed questions, do they give detailed responses? \n- What is their business plan? If they are vague, use caution - UNLESS, they have solid business plan & they just don’t know how to communicate that to the web.\n\nHow do you tell a client NO?\n- When they ask for something that’s not a good idea (NOTE: this is not the same as something you just don’t want to do), how do you respond? You put holes into their idea.\n- - A UI designer purposed in a wire frame that a University site that had no permalinks... \n\nIf something goes wrong, I like to follow the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy's tag line: “Don’t Panic”\n\nEmail:\n1. Read the email. Listen to what it's saying\n- - I built a membership site & once it was done, I got the email from the client that a specific portion of the site doesn’t work & by now he’s loosing money. I blew up (and got nervous). Then responded promptly with... “Thanks for emailing, we’ll take a look at this and keep you updates as we find out more”. It turns out it was some javascript issue specific to IE8 installs on Windows XP & Vista.\n\n2. Respond promptly. A prompt response will make the dumb appear smart & will buy you time\n- Always the case, EXCEPT WHEN... There is an accusatory tone of voice in the email. For this, only call the client. If you must email, email asking what time works best for you to talk to them.\n\nPhone (Is the opposite of email):\n1. Listen first & then listen some more.\n\n2. Respond, don't react\n - - I did this wrong once... I was working collections & a lady called me a A-hole, which I promptly responded with “I’m not an A-hole”.\n\n3. If there's an accusatory tone of voice or they're flat out just P.O.'d, respond with\n- "I know that it's frustrating..."\n- "I'm sorry that this is becoming an increased source of tension..."\n- Best to avoid words like "You" & instead say, "we" or "it's" - keep it neutral &/or take ownership with the situation & responsibility ONLY on THOSE THINGS THAT ARE IN THE SCOPE... (failing to plan, is planning to fail).\n\nSun Tzu: Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies to make its every move. [This brings two things to mind when applying it to clients]\n1. Do something the client doesn't ask for, but will appreciate & not expect more of (don’t use this for every client or every other even)\n\n2. Always improve on your processes. This applies for all three points (Clients, You & Your Team), but specifically for clients, don’t be afraid to try something new when dealing with them. Whether it’s trying out the SuperTroopers method of saying ‘Meow’ when pulling someone over or if it’s, sending a client you want repeat business from a thank you note.\n\n\n\n\n
  • If communication is key, documentation is your sledge hammer.\n- SCOPE OF WORK - always have one...\n- Document meetings w/ clients and... send out a recap\n- Remember, if it comes down to it & you and your client can’t come to an agreement... to quote my boss “He with the best documentation, wins!”\n\n\nSun Tzu: It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.\n\nKnow your limitations\n1. Time limitations (Can you support an e-commerce site or a membership site that integrates with PayPal? )\n\n2. Organizational limitations (Basically, ARE YOU? I have had the worst problems with getting side tracked with anything, including the birds. Are you one of those & if so, how to you stay on track).\n- - Tools used to help me out: RescueTime (Time Tracking based off of what your active window is), ActionMethod (PM Software), Redmine (Ruby/Rails, PM intranet - we use it for our team & clients, it comes in handy (integrates with GIT/SVN, we wrote a module/extension that integrates with our Google Calendar), BaseCamp (Also a PM software - more eye candy’ish &/or designers love it.)\n\n3. Always Under-promise & Over Deliver\n
  • \nThe same for client communication, can also be carried over to your team. Prompt-ness is very much appreciated. Once difference between communication with the client and with your team, is you should be able to give & RECEIVE criticism. \n\nOrganization Limitations - Do you have the manpower & more importantly, the team camaraderie to turn over a University site in a few months? Do you have a team member who likes to jump the gun or put the cart before the horse & if so, how to you handle that?\n\n\nSun Tzu: Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.\n\nSoftware Development Process (taken from Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_development_process)\n- Waterfall model (most ideal & unrealistic one out there)\n- Spiral model (more common than people give credit for, esp. for clients that have a incremental budget - such as every quarter or at the end of one year & the beginning of another)\n- Iterative and incremental development (the one I prefer the most)\n- Agile development (you have to have a good communication process down for this one to work & software tests are imperative)\n- Code and fix (i'm on a project right now that's doing this. Guess how long it's been going on)\n\nNo matter what... be willing to adjust\n
  • Sun Tzu: Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.\n
  • In order to manage expectations, you constantly need to be improving & learning. \n\nGet a mentor, some one you can learn from & watch. Who you can ask you questions & will teach you over do it for you. If your mentor is going to be on a conf call you’re working on, ask to be on it so you know how to respond &/or how they would like you to respond.\n
  • "Managing Expectations" - South Dakota Code Camp, November 2011

    1. 1. MANAGING EXPECTATIONSA look into how to logically think through and engineer a development project, both toguide you / your team through a productive development & QA phase as well as steer your client successfully through the project. Clients, You & Your Team! Tim Schoffelman
    2. 2. EVERYONE’S BACKGROUND Specifically, what kind of job does everyone have? (and, who am I?)
    3. 3. CLIENTSCommunication is key
    4. 4. YOUOrganization is key
    5. 5. YOUR TEAMCommunication & Organization is key
    6. 6. QABreak it first, before the client does
    7. 7. CONCLUSIONCommunication & Organization