Learning a Client's Business

As a consultant, the word “obvious” is not a favorite of mine. Neither are “assume”, “presume”, or “presuppose”. A long time ago, I learned to embrace the learning curve rather than fear it and to just jump in and ask “dumb” questions. I’m usually the guy in the meeting that asks at least five questions that have seemingly obvious answers.As a consultant, the word “obvious” is not a favorite of mine.

Neither are “assume”, “presume”, or “presuppose”.

Andre Hood, SVP, Business Development
#Phase2 | Posted

As a consultant, the word “obvious” is not a favorite of mine. Neither are “assume”, “presume”, or “presuppose”. A long time ago, I learned to embrace the learning curve rather than fear it and to just jump in and ask “dumb” questions. I’m usually the guy in the meeting that asks at least five questions that have seemingly obvious answers.As a consultant, the word “obvious” is not a favorite of mine.

Neither are “assume”, “presume”, or “presuppose”. A long time ago, I learned to embrace the learning curve rather than fear it and to just jump in and ask “dumb” questions. I’m usually the guy in the meeting that asks at least five questions that have seemingly obvious answers. The client might answer most of them with obvious answers, but one of those questions usually either has an answer slightly different from what the group thought or somebody else in the room didn’t know the answer to that very question before I asked it.Here’s some food for thought on what it takes to learn a client’s business:

It’s not instant: In hiring me as your consultant, you have to be willing to let me consult. After all, to create the proper solution, I have to really understand your problem. That’s obvious, right?  What should probably be assumed is that gathering all the key details involves reviewing documentation, talking to key stakeholders, learning about their organizational culture, etc. That takes time, which is why we actively only pursue projects that will yield a long-term relationship with the client. Don’t get me wrong, we can bail you out of a quick software jam. In fact, we do that for a lot of organizations. However, the shorter the engagement, the harder it is to get really smart about a client’s business needs.

It takes involvement: You can’t really learn a client’s business through cramming – it’s like studying right before a big test. You have to take it all in over time. It takes consistent interaction, quality account management, requirements validation and testing…and really just being nosy. As your consultant, I’d like to see and know everything about your organization.

It’s not free or cheap: You get what you pay for. Analysis hours are sometimes the first block of hours the client wants to cut or limit during a project. But do you really want a solution that included very little analysis, client discussions, or process verification and validation?

Sure, the client may have selected us for the engagement based on similar industry or project references, but everyone has a unique culture and processes. The intricacies of why and how their organization executes various business processes shouldn’t be presupposed no matter how straight-forward they appear to be. Learning a client’s business takes time, involvement, and resources from both sides.

Andre Hood

Andre Hood

SVP, Business Development