Our reality is that we have been more successful with some clients and projects than others. At our recent Gaslight retreat we spent a lot of time trying to decide the formula that led to success and the things that did not. One of our biggest goals is to have happy Gaslighters and happy clients. Project success is a big factor in our overall happiness. We want to end projects proud of our results and with clients happy with what we’ve done.
The most important thing
On the surface, it’s easy to come up with a laundry list of things we think will make a project be awesome. We like project work where we can control the whole process from beginning to end. But we’ve also been successful inheriting large (legacy) code bases. We like to bring the whole project in house and work together as a team. But we’ve also been successful doing straight up staff augmentation. We like to engage directly with the client to learn first hand what the problem is and how solving it affects them. But we’ve also done successful projects where the end user was represented by a third-party proxy.
The more we talked about our successes and “less than successes” the more apparent what the true common denominator is. In almost every case, it comes down to the amount of time the client is willing to spend with us.
Give the Dog a Bone
Client engagement pertains to how involved the owner is in the day-to-day activities of the project. The more we talk to clients, the more enthusiastic and satisfied we are in our work.
The opposite is also true. For developers, lack of attention from a client can quickly take a project to the dark side. Not speaking regularly can lead to doubt and paranoia. Inability to ship code or get stories accepted can lead to discouragement and apathy. It’s in everybody’s best interest to talk often, and always be moving the project forward.
Clients, view your development team as an adorable little puppy. Give them plenty of love and attention and guidance. Care and ownership of a development team is not to be taken lightly:
- We need to you to meet with us daily to see what we’ve done and tell us what a good job we’re doing
- We need you to write the individual stories and tell us what it means to be “done” with the story
- We need you to verify the stuff we’ve done meets your expectations, even the ones you didn’t tell us about
- We need you to regularly review overall objectives and set priorities
We need you to do these things all the time. Just like puppy training, consistency is the key.
Before you begin you next project, as yourself these questions:
- How many hours can you spend talking to us each week?
- How quickly can you respond to and accept our work?
- Can you / Are you willing to write stories for features?
- What was your previous team like?
So there it is, touchy-feely engagement is the key. Success or failure is rarely a matter technology or domain. Overshadowing all other considerations, the correlation between positive client engagement and project health is clear and visible. Now go and take your development team for a walk around the block!