Sometimes the 28th Time’s a Charm

Last week, I spent a full day on-site with the client to provide more in-depth training of our software. The goal was to make sure their project leads had a solid understanding to help frame their process analysis. However, since the client is still in their internal requirements analysis process, this came with the inherent risk that they would want to design the solution. And we really weren’t at that point in the process yet.

There is a delicate balancing act between helping a client understand their new software solution while keeping them focused on the requirements. Remember, requirements are the what but not the how. And it’s our job as business analysts to help our clients remember that what we really need to understand is their what, and that it’s our job to find the how.

But sometimes you have to remind them of that.

And sometimes it takes 28 times.

All throughout the day, as questions came up like “Can’t we modify this screen to do X?” or “How come this screen doesn’t do Y?”, I gently coached the client that what was important was for us to understand what their needs were and then we could recommend ways to meet those needs. It was their job (as client-side BAs) to make sure I understood what they needed, and my job (as the software-side BA) to figure out how to help them achieve that. Because as much as we wanted them to understand the software they will be using, it’s not their job to be the expect in the software. It’s mine.

By the end of the day, the client leads were catching each other when they went too far into solution space. And they even joked that we needed to get t-shirts – theirs with the word “What” on the front…mine with the word “How”. (Oh, and the PMs would get a “When” shirt. 🙂 ) Not such a bad idea, huh?

The trick is not to get frustrated when this happens. Gently coach and reinforce the goal. Remember, it’s hard for people to stay away from wanting to try and talk solution. It’s in our nature as thinking beings to want to find answers. Just continue to remind them until it starts to sink in. Sometimes it’s not the first, second or third time, but the 28th time that’s the charm.

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