Usually the customer either comes with a set of detailed requirements or you must extract those requirements from them. Either way, they definitely come with a problem that has necessitated the project you are about to embark on with them. But are they right? And should you point out that they aren’t if you’re concerned they’re going down the wrong path. The answer is yes, definitely. Here’s why…
They may be chasing a symptom, not the real problem
When the customer comes to you with the need, no matter how certain they may be of that need, it is still your job to ask questions. Discuss the need with the project sponsor. Meet with the end users to identify what they feel the issue or need is. The real need may be deeper – the customer may only be coming to you with a symptom of the real problem. If you don’t tell the customer they are wrong and solve their real need, you may be only putting a band-aid on the real problem and when that becomes evident, you’ll have a very frustrated and dissatisfied customer on your hands.
They may be selecting the wrong technology
Many times someone at the customer organization – possibly even the project sponsor – comes forward with a project and they are certain that a particular ‘latest technology’ is the perfect solution for them. This is usually the result of something they’ve been told or have read about. Indeed, that technology may truly be what is needed, but it is still the delivery team’s responsibility to dive into the detailed requirements for the project and verify that the technology the customer is requesting is really the best way to solve the problem. Often times when the customer has pre-selected the technology for the solution, it is not the best technology to use and a red flag should be raised.
They may be asking for add-ons they don’t need
On the delivery side, we always want to avoid ‘gold-platting’ the solution. When we gold-plate, we deliver add-ons that aren’t part of the requirements and they end up costing us on the delivery side and putting the project budget in danger.
What we’re talking about here, though, is the other side of the coin. The customer can be asking for add-on services or functionality as part of the solution that they don’t really need. Indeed, the solution delivered ‘as is’ may meet their needs – such as providing a needed report through the basic implementation making it unnecessary for them to pay additional fees to have custom reports developed. It’s our duty on the delivery side to identify those situations, alert the customer and work to keep the customer costs as low as possible.
The bottom line is that you as the project manager and your skilled project team are the real experts. That’s why you’re being hired to work the project and deliver a solution. The customer may have come into the engagement thinking they needed ‘x’ and you’re telling them they need ‘y’. But it’s your job to tell them that and to deliver an end solution that meets their needs…whether it’s a cheaper solution than they anticipated or a more expensive one. Then let them decide with you on how best to proceed.