Many businesses prefer custom-built tech solutions that are tailored to their processes, but to ensure the end product is truly effective, they must be able to clearly convey their needs to the tech experts tasked with building the software. And since many clients of tech companies aren’t in the tech industry themselves, they often struggle to do so.
When a client isn’t able to easily articulate what they’re looking for, it falls to a tech leader to ask the right questions and ensure they have a firm grasp on what’s required. Below, 16 industry experts from Forbes Technology Council share strategies to ensure your team understands exactly what a client is looking for in a tech solution.
1. Approach the conversation with an open mind.
The problem of clearly and accurately defining a technical solution has existed since the dawn of technology. It is critical that tech leaders come to these conversations with an open mind and with the desire and capacity to truly understand a problem. The age of throwing requirements over the fence and hoping for success is over—success is now defined by partnership and understanding. – Jeff Richardson, Accelerated Enrollment Solutions
2. Learn their desired business outcomes.
Spend time listening and understanding the client’s needs and business outcomes to create a bespoke solution that meets their requirements. You need to know their business, understand the problem they are facing and what they are looking to achieve with the solution, and you must actively listen to their answers. This is the first step to a successful technology partnership. – Pete Hanlon, Moneypenny
3. Start with ‘why’ and ‘what.’
When coming up with a technical solution, it’s important to start with the “why” and the “what” before tackling the “how.” A tech leader can elicit the “why” by uncovering the pain that needs to be solved and what a successful resolution would look like. Choosing the technology comes last; it becomes the vehicle to get you to the successful outcome. – Morgan Palmer, ETQ
4. Define the business value.
A simple technique a tech leader can use is to collaborate with the client business to define what business value the solution will—or should—deliver. Once the business value is defined, it becomes easy to define how it needs to be delivered. The “how” part can be done by bringing all the stakeholders into a room and completing a visioning session for the product. – Shiboo Varughese, Cirruslabs.io
5. Leverage storytelling.
A great way to accommodate nontechnical clients is through storytelling. Explaining the user journey as a story is intuitive for nontech stakeholders; it’s also a great way to begin capturing requirements. When we show a client their user journey in written story form, they quickly get a feel for how we can drill down and iterate through the details to produce a great specification together. – Dave Hecker, iTechArt Group
6. Find out what they’re looking to improve.
Before suggesting a technology solution, it is important to get the client to fully articulate what process they are looking to improve. What does the current process lack, and what would be the cost and pain of doing nothing? Only with a clear picture of all three questions can one start matching technology to a problem. – John Milburn, Clear Skye
7. Shadow them for a day.
Become versed in domain-driven design techniques. The processes and artifacts that are developed help communicate the needs and desires well across the business-technology boundary. Then, agree to do “a day in the life” with the customer. Invest your own time to show that you are willing to commit to the solution. – Steve Daly, Fusion Alliance
8. Take a look at their current infrastructure.
To help clients overcome this challenge, tech leaders should reexamine the business’ needs and existing digital infrastructure. Key questions include “What is the client trying to solve for?” and “What team members are impacted?” The answers to these questions can be used to level-set and ensure teams remain aligned. – Susan Lang, XIL Health, LLC
9. Get clear on their goals and metrics.
For any business leader—but particularly for those providing B2B technologies—the ability to understand the business goals of the client, along with their metrics, is key. That is how you create greater efficiencies for them and their customers. The ability to identify a client’s pain points or gaps in the systems they are using and proactively bring them new solutions is crucial. – Chemi Katz, Namogoo
10. Ask about their pain points.
The key is to carefully listen to the customer’s requirements and make sure you can deliver a cost-effective, differentiated solution that adds value and at scale. Focus on the customer’s pain points, and then use innovation to provide the right solutions to solve customer problems. – Eric Stonestrom, Airspan Networks
11. Consider the long-term impact.
Focus on the business problem to be solved rather than getting into a solution for the defined requirement. Technology leaders need to understand the business, industry outlook, and the impact the solution will have on the business outcome. Technology has to enable business, so the long-term impact of the solution should be considered. Clients may not always be able to articulate the problem through requirements. – Nikunj Nirmal, Amazon
12. Get a clear picture of requirements, timeframe, and budget.
To provide the value your customers need, it’s essential to compile a full requirements list and clearly scope your customer’s needs, timeframe and budget. Give a sound recommendation with the customer’s best interests at heart and you take a step toward becoming a trusted advisor. Give a poor recommendation and you become just another vendor who talks too much. – Rich Waldron, Tray.io
13. Differentiate your clients from others in their industry.
Tech leaders need to distinguish more between companies in the same industry. Knowledge from past engagements in the client’s industry is useful, but knowing how this client is different can also pay rich dividends. Tech leaders can start there and expand to other areas. For the client, talking about technology in that context is easier since it is likely they would have had that discussion already. – Ratheesh Raveendran, OpsVeda
14. Collaborate closely with the client’s leadership team.
Tech leaders should collaborate closely with business leaders from the very start about solutions for the client’s business. One strategy is to start with the most critical question: Who are the end-users of the intended technology? This question forces everyone to think about needed features and functionality from a design-thinking perspective versus starting with what technology is possible. – Venkat Viswanathan, LatentView Analytics
15. Follow an agile, iterative process.
Follow an iterative delivery process driven by discovery, guided by written requirements, and verified via your client’s feedback. High-level goals, expectations, and business priorities can often undergo adjustments. To understand what the client expects from your solution, you need to stay on top of these adjustments. The most practical way to do this is via an agile process. – Alex Kalinovsky, AgileEngine LLC
16. Focus on the user experience.
One strategy that resonates with clients and users and helps them understand a technology solution is focusing on the user experience. Tie the technology solution to what the user will experience—explain how the solution reduces cycle time, increases productivity or brings in additional revenue. This strategy connects with the client directly and helps them understand the value you’re creating. – Ganesh Natesan, loanDepot
Source – Forbes