You get a genuine prospect, you ask for requirements, tend to believe that you have understood the requirements since you would like to close the deal, you prepare a set of documents under the different names of design plan, development plan, resource plan, timelines plan, implementation plan, deployment plan, testing plan etc; and then you jump into working for the customer.
Few days pass and then the customer starts pushing to add in more features/functionalities as his maturity towards the system enhances. You tend to be polite and accept to incorporate small features that would take about 2-3 hours. Then he requests few more features and then you would assume that it is hopefully not repetitive and then accommodate in order to avoid clashes. When it continues, you start letting customer that it would be difficult to accept new requirements midway. You realize that customer delays the payment so that you would consider including his desired new features. That is when you tend to press the customer to avoid unnecessary changes, add in imaginary features and to make the payments on time. All above scenarios are very common and I guess, are applicable for all projects; regardless of whether you are building the product or providing services, the requirements of which have been hastily agreed to kick-start the project.
There is a scene in one of my favorite movies ‘Rocket Singh – Salesman of the year’. The newly graduated friends would be having late party when the DJ threatens to leave. When everybody gives up convincing him, Ranvir Kapoor walks up to him, talks for couple of mins and does the trick. “Thodisi conversation, thodisi persuasion, thodisi negotiation”. Below are few suggestions, especially for start-up organizations as they tend to give into the pressure of doing more for small payments –
• Freeze the requirements document: I understand that this is easy said than done; however, you can clearly mention that you would leverage Time and Material costing model if the requirements continue to change. Once the customer understands that he will have to pay for the delay, he will attempt to freeze the requirements.
• Document of Understanding: I agree that it is difficult to get a commitment from the customer as it is very likely that although the requirements are frozen, the customer can always interpret a requirement differently and ask you to deliver more than agreed with either the same or lower cost. Prepare a Document of Understanding and get a sign-off that your understanding of requirements is at par with them. This is one of the most crucial steps. Use your communication skills and convince its importance to the customer how it would avoid last minute unpleasant surprises and costs as well.
• List of deliverables: Ensure that everybody is clear in terms of deliverables and additional deliverables will cost timelines, resources and hence additional payments. Put down the expectations in terms of contents of document.
• Expectations Management: Usually, most of the managers do a good job of expectations management to ensure that customer’s expectations are met. However, good leaders also put down their expectations in terms of payments on time. Let’s accept it that there is no free meal in the world and someone has to pay when work is done. One needs to make it clear that the work would be stopped and resources would be allocated to different projects, if the payments are not done on time. If you do a good job of completing the deliverables as expected, you are entitled to ask for the payments on time.
• Meet decision makers: Often, the deals are lost since you spend all your energy in impressing folks who are not decision makers. Ensure that a budget is available and that decision makers are involved in discussions. Even if you don’t get decision makers to attend meeting in the first place, schedule a meeting to talk to them and explain about your expertise and services. They are the ones who sponsor the projects and approve the payments. The rest of the folks usually work on it to showcase the details for their appraisals or merely because they have been asked to get it done.
• Budget constraints: Sometimes, you get to talk to decision makers and realize that they have genuine constraints on budgets. I would suggest not hanging your boots so soon. Visit them again, check out the reasons, validate their rationale on budget and if you are able to implement it although with smaller margins but having a good long term relationship, I would recommend going with it. It takes a while to know that business is not only about money although it is an important fuel for startups as well as all organizations.
I understand that most of the people would like to make their presence felt, get recognition for their efforts and perhaps it is a human tendency. Sure, Go ahead and impress; however, by doing a great job, not by shining apples for your bosses/customers; by working sincerely and delivering the projects on time, not by stepping on your colleague’s toes; by following ethics, not by stealing somebody’s due recognition.
You’ll have different pressures at different times to deliver the job. The above pointers may help you decide whether to get pressed or leave the bosses/customers impressed.