Why Customers are always wrong!!! when requesting for a change/features and what to do about this?
OK I know this was bit stretched it was done intentionally to make the point.
Quite often customer themselves do not know what do they need when they are requesting for a change/features.
But what customers do know are the business problems they have, which are missing in the current product.
When we say they are always wrong when requesting for a change I mean that most of the time when they give a change request they might not be able to articulate exactly what they want. And because we do not offend our nice customer we also do not bother to ask many questions and pretend that we understand what he/she wants to get built.
For something complex like software or web application (which actually looks quite simple outside) communication is THE key while delivering great products. In situations like these, this s the responsibility of the product manager (or Product Owner) to solve this problem and help customer to get involved in the requirement gathering process and extract as much as possible.
Because there are many parties involved in making final great products its necessary that first we all have looked at all the angle(different use cases) and then while delivering everybody is looking at the same object(including our customer).
There is a great deal of literature on capturing requirements alone what I will touch here is the broad process which will make sure that the product that we are building is what customer wants. This will be win-win for both.
Over the year working on different kind of software and web application I have devise a simple process which works almost every time for me.
It goes like this.
Explore Ask Explore
Before going to meet your customer do a thorough research on the domain or subject matter, prepare a broad list of questions which comes to your mind (e.g. why do people use your offline product etc.)
During your meeting with customers ask all your questions which you have prepared or which come to your mind during meeting.
Note down everything!!!
Note almost everything (I literally mean in writing) which has been shared by your customer
Create a professional looking MOM (should be brief enough to read).
Now this is our secret sauce (I Know it’s not but ‘Secret’ is a catchy word isn’t?)
After you have understood requirements in your mind, start creating a mock-up, Process I follow is
1. Start sketching it on paper.
2. After you are happy show it your designer.
3. Create JPEG mock-ups and link them in Dreamweaver.
Show these mock-up to one of your colleagues for second opinion ( I almost always do and people come up with feedback that it’s hard to imagine how could you have missed it)
After the final adjustments show the mock-ups to your client and get the feedback (let them know that’s what you have understood about the FUNCTIONALITY)
Trust me if you can share your mock-up within 1-2 days of your meeting Client will not only be surprised(with joy of course) but also will be motivated to get involved in requirement gathering .
I cannot overemphasized the importance of creating JPEG mock-ups immediately after you meeting all the points are fresh in your mind you are motivated and so on..
Asks for their feedback and note down everything they have shared also this is the time now to debate about what your client is saying and explain why do you think you included that.
Repeat this cycle till your client says that what I want.
Now this is the time you as a product manager go to your technical lead and explain them the approved requirements.
In my opinion if you can execute this process as suggested you have almost have done 40-50% of your work.
How to manage change.
Very easy just follow the same process now on smaller scale; update your product requirement document with requirement changes so that everything is documented.
I know there are great product managers who follow more rigorous process than this and would love see their contributions as well.