Curated by: Sergio A. Martínez
It’s well-known within the software industry that taking the initiative to anticipate and meet a client’s needs during development can mean the difference between an average project and a fantastic one. Usually, when trying to quickly crunch code and push features, it can be tempting to take care of issues as they come up, but the effectiveness of this strategy can lead to a variety of outcomes, not all of them positive, so it’s essential that developers know how to anticipate potential issues ahead of time and build out processes, systems, and approaches to address them before they had the chance to do damage.
Understanding your client
“In most cases, however, I’ve been involved in projects where this doesn’t happen; a client often arrives with an idea they want to achieve as it is”, says Ángeles about his experience working with clients to refine the project’s best outcome. “It helps when the client comes from the same Tech background as us because they have a better understanding of the process, but if they are not very knowledgeable about development, it can be complicated because of what they picture and the following requirements, unfortunately, cannot be realistically done.”
“There are clients who are not dedicated to software that expect professional guidance, and our job is to translate expectations into requirements, and all the technical details are up to us”, says Martín. “But other clients have more experience with development, and they can even have input in the tools and frameworks they want, which can change the way we work together. But I think our client approach at Scio helps us bring the project to a good outcome.”
After all, software development projects have many moving parts, so having an equal partnership between clients and developers is key to success. Having clear communication and a cohesive team can help align priorities and ensure everyone has the same understanding of what needs to be achieved. Not only that but working in an equal partnership can also add to the efficiency of the process as clients can provide necessary feedback on time, which can help avoid costly re-work at later stages. Ultimately, achieving success comes down to working together in an atmosphere of mutual respect, trust, and understanding. With an effective working collaboration, both parties can benefit from mutually rewarding outcomes.
“In those cases, what I do is to dig a little, understand the client, see what products or services they have offered in the past (tech-related or not), and move on from there”, continues Ángeles. “I try to find the middle ground or similar situations to discuss the idea and maybe rework it, without telling the clients ‘no’ directly, and rather trying to make any requirement changes come from them. That way, the project goes a lot smoother with a lot of common ground between us.”
The challenge of not saying “no”
When it comes to software development, understanding and accommodating your client’s needs is essential for success. Saying “no” to a client can signal a lack of knowledge, experience, or attentiveness to their individual requests. So, instead of saying no, a good team tries to think about options for solving problems. Oftentimes there are several ways that a project can be achieved, so listening closely to the client and taking the time to propose alternative solutions can actually be more beneficial in the long run. Making an effort to assess what’s important to your client and creating a plan of action together builds trust and encourages collaboration, unlike any other approach, as the people of Scio are well aware.
“Saying “no” politely is an art, but it’s not that difficult when you can clearly justify your answer”, explains Martín as his own approach. “We do a lot of research to establish clear reasons why something might not be feasible and try to be as transparent as possible when communicating these findings with the client. That brings everyone to the same page, but as a team, we need to be very meticulous to explain what’s possible and what isn’t in development.”
“And this speaks of the way Scio has “anticipate” as one of the main pillars of our culture, where working alongside the client is the main priority”, says Adolfo. “You need to anticipate what the client expects of you and your team when it comes to status updates and collaboration during the project. Even your language and how you communicate count, and that is part of our daily routine. Not everything is coding and programming, there are a lot of soft skills involved in software development.”
“It also depends on the trust you build with the client”, continues Ángeles. “Maybe a brand-new client questions a lot more things at the beginning, trying to get a feel of the team and the project, and saying “no” is a more delicate process. But after two or three years, they know we have their best interests in mind, so when we say “no”, they understand that is being said with good reasons, and we can explore better options. This kind of trust also means that they wouldn’t want to work with anyone else in the future.”
The importance of strong leadership
Of course, it’s important to understand the importance of anticipating client needs to be a successful software development team leader. Knowing what the client wants goes a long way toward developing quality software and forging a stronger professional relationship with clients because a proactive approach like this showcases your ability to read between the lines and create solutions even when faced with limited direction.
It also shows that your team is proactively engaged in the process instead of just providing a rudimentary service. In addition, anticipating client needs often include setting realistic expectations and understanding potential difficulties which can eliminate project roadblocks in advance. Ultimately, teaching your team members how to anticipate their client’s needs shows them early on that you are invested in their success as well as finding smart solutions for every project, which is something the leads at Scio are well aware of.
“What I try to do is bring everyone on the team together, and let them know that nobody works in isolation, the pronoun we use is “we”. If something goes right it’s because the team did a good job, and if something goes wrong it’s because we, as a team, made a mistake and we can correct it. All that matters is the common goal”, explains Ángeles about her approach to being a team lead.
“I try to be very involved with them. Not to the point of micromanaging the team, of course, but by letting them know that I’m available for everything they might need to ask and offering support”, explains Martín. “The idea is to build a cordial relationship, where I’m not just their boss, but that we are a team, we are inclusive and involved, and Yamila [Solari, Partner, General Manager, and Coaching Leader at Scio] helps us with that with team building activities to make the development process as smooth as possible.”
When it comes to software development, it’s not enough to simply wait for things to go wrong and then try and fix them. Issues can strike at any time, so a more proactive approach is needed. Anticipating problems is essential in software development, as being unprepared can result in costly mistakes. It’s much better to take preventative action and locate vulnerabilities before they cause issues down the line.
This can save developers from unneeded frustration and help ensure that products are released on-time with minimal fuss. Skilled software developers will plan out every step of their process carefully, making sure to build safeguards into their code that will alert them should potential problems arise.
“As a company, we have asked ourselves about the types of relationships we want to build, and the kind of clients we want to work with. And our culture plays a big part in that; Scio is an organization that wants to build great software with experienced partners with a cultural match that keeps everyone’s expectations in line”, finishes Adolfo. “And there’s been some occasions in the past that, at the end of a contract, we parted ways with a client because the match wasn’t there, and thus we couldn’t deliver the quality we look for in every project. Having a cultural affinity and similar values goes a long way into the kinds of partnerships that generate great products and anticipating what a client might need becomes par on the course if our dynamic hits that spot.”
The Key Takeaways
- Anticipating a client’s needs is one of the best skills any development team can have, helping side-step issues and keeping a project on track with ease.
- However, this skill is not an easy one to acquire, as it requires expertise, experience, and strong leadership to shine.
- Furthermore, having a company culture that matches the client’s, and carefully selecting projects and people to work with, is one of the critical elements to ensure a positive outcome in development.
Scio is a Nearshore software development company based in Mexico where we believe that everyone deserves everyone should have the opportunity to work in an environment where they feel like a part of something. A place to excel and unlock their full potential which is the best approach to create a better world. We have been collaborating with US-based clients since 2003, solving challenging programming puzzles, and in the process showcasing the skills of Latin American Engineers. Want to be part of Scio? Get in contact today!. Get in contact today!