This relates to something that happened to one of my team members, but it is an important note for all in any regard.
A client came through us last year seeking someone to set up a database in Excel for him. Originally it started off being a simple database but grew more complex as the client thought of more things they needed. This then proved a difficult task for the team member who did the job because she didn’t have the knowledge / experience required for the complexity that developed and she struggled to achieve what the client wanted – he was very nice about it and recognised that it was his choice to work with her, but was concerned because she began ignoring his requests for her to come see him with the excuse she was busy in other areas. It was this particular aspect he was concerned about – not that she was learning-on-the-job as he recognised that he didn’t fully know what he wanted at the beginning.
When you do speak to a client about a job it is important to ask what does the client think the end result needs to be? Sometimes they haven’t thought that far into the job and just have some ‘airy-fairy’ idea of what they are doing. However, particularly with the need of a database, it is important to know what the client wants to achieve at the end, rather than what he/she thinks they want to start off with. Then you can start with the end in mind. This also applies to jobs such as desktop publishing, or jobs that are going to require printing out-of-house – it is important to know who the printer is going to be and what format they need it in – irrespective of what the client might think is suitable.
The client does not always know how a job needs to be done – but they think they do. So, it is really important to ask them what do they envisage is going to take place after you have finished. What do they want to achieve with what you do for them? A bit like planning a house to be built – if you don’t have a vision of what it will look like at the end, how are you going to know where to start and what to do?
And it’s possible you might have to set time aside toward the end to go and educate the client face-to-face how it works, especially if the client needs to continue working with something you have created or organised for them.
Just some food for thought! KMT