What is a difficult situation?
Software development and creative coding isn’t always fun, artistic, and intellectually stimulating. Unfortunately, the real world exists and it is full of complications and indecision. This can lead to some difficult situations that could bring the good times to a halt. One of the main difficulties that we face on a daily basis are the terrible ideas that come from clients. Let’s dive in.
Terrible client ideas
I can hear people chuckling when I mention “terrible client ideas.” I hope you remember the funniest things you’ve heard clients say and suggest, but terrible client ideas can be a real show stopper if you don’t know how to manage them properly. It can be easy with some clients who understand what they don’t know and are willing to give the developers the lead on making important decisions. Many other clients might feel that the money they’re paying for the product allows their opinions to have real weight. So what can you do?
The first thing you can do is offer alternatives. This may seem like a “duh” solution, but I see many colleagues shoot down a client’s request without offering an alternative. Managing clients is generally a give and take process. The benefit of offering an alternative is that you have control of the give. You can deduce what the client is after and you can figure out an easier, more effective, or less destructive option.
This gives you the ability to take a potentially derailing situation and turn it into a minor change that won’t impact your development AND keeps the client happy. That’s a win-win in most situation.
The second thing you can do is educate. A client with a terrible idea is usually just a client who doesn’t know any better. If you really do want to completely shut down the thought process and request of the client, the best way to do that is to take the time to explain to them why it’s a bad idea.
One of three things will happen once you start explaining to them. There’s a 40% chance they’re too busy to care about getting in the weeds and will just say “ok fine, I believe you.” Then there’s another 40% chance that they’ll follow along, be grateful that you’re willing to walk them through it, and then they’ll agree that it’s a bad idea. Finally there’s a 20% chance, as there always is, that regardless of your education plan, they tell you to “just make it happen,” and then they walk way. At this point though, you can always fall back to offering an alternative that is more favorable to your position.
In my dreams sometimes there are no clients involved with installations at all! In the real world though, we have many different issues and complications that need to be dealt with. Terrible client ideas are a big one and having two strategies to deal with them can be the difference between a successful project and pure chaos.