It’s a quiet Saturday in my office and while I should be working on a client’s project, I found myself intrigued reading the various responses to Airtable customer requests for help from consultants.
Some of them had me chuckling and others were simply boring. A few even triggered yawns from time-to-time despite being hopped up on Black Rifle Coffee.
This post is yet another tell, and no show. Just a few tips from an old dude who’s written about 41.8 million lines of code. I’m an analytics guy, so yeah - I pretty much know how many lines of code I’ve written since 1978.
Being this old and this “seasoned” in the fine art of crafting software, I get away with saying stuff that might come off as crude or insensitive. But, my candour might also help you avoid some blind spots. Feel free to push back on these highly opinionated perspectives and know that if these were considered crimes, I would be on death row.
That said, here are some tips to pick winners - both consultants and customers.
Consultants who respond exactly the same to every customer request for help.
Consultants - if you really want a new client, consider responding to new inquiries with some thought about their problem domain. Demonstrate you care more about the solution than the fees.
Customers - be very careful about anyone who uses the same pitch for every prospective engagement. This is especially a red flag when you see the same pitch used for extremely diverse requirements. A consultant with a deep background in web site development is not likely to also have skills in complex and secure integration.
Customers who disguise a desire to learn or get a solution for free against the backdrop of a paid engagement.
Consultants - watch for deceptive indicators such as “limited budget”, “quick and dirty”, “need it yesterday”. These are customers you should fear winning their business.
Customers - if you want help and have no budget, a lot of knowledge is here for the taking; you just have to ask. Be honest, ask openly and be prepared to provide clear details and work through your solution. Don’t play games.
Customers or Consultants who do not separate requirements from implementation details.
Consultants - 83% of all software engagements fail to deliver on their promised benefits because of poorly developed or inadequately-stated requirements. You deserve a high incidence of dissatisfied customers if you do not enforce a clean separation of implementation approaches formulated AFTER the requirements have been stated (preferably in writing) and agreed to (also in writing). Above all, do not offer to create requirements and design content for free.
Customers - if you aren’t crafting well-defined business objectives for your envisioned solution, you deserve to pay more to have your consultant do this for you, or you deserve a crappy outcome if you’re unwilling to accommodate the costs of requirements planning. Expecting to “phone-in” – or worse, TEXT your detailed requirements transforms your consultant into a “scribe” and a rather expensive one at that.