As a tech specialist, we have to emphasise the importance of knowing your pain points. Clients want new software to achieve their goal. In actual fact, software is only part of the solution, designed to improve something or solve a challenge.
We can give a few examples to illustrate this.
You’re an accountant and you want to increase your customer base. Instagram is a platform that you aren’t utilizing and you want to try something new. You approach a marketing consultant with a brief to set-up an Instagram account. You set a schedule to post on it three times a week and a budget to sponsor a post every month.
The issue is, you expect five new sales leads from Instagram every month. And the marketing consultant isn’t aware of this.
Instagram is a photo platform: it’s great for food pictures and landscapes. So the questions is: can you reproduce what you do in engaging photography? What kind of audience will you attract on Instagram? How can you make posts useful to your audience? The metrics are also an issue: the client may see an increase in following, but what will that mean? How many of these clients will convert?
The marketing consultant was unaware of the accountant's objectives. Instagram is a huge platform, but it wasn't the correct one. LinkedIn and Twitter would have been more appropriate for their sales goals.
Instead, the conversation will happen 6 months down the line. The client has invested £1500 in the agency. They still only have 500 followers and they have no new leads. The agency haven't delivered on the objectives they were being measured against. The issue is that the agency were unaware of the objectives, and neither party is happy.
The same applies to tech. But the budget is bigger and it’s vital that we do things right.
Software is often seen as a solution. But if the tech partner isn’t sure what the problem is, then what are they solving? Software needs to link to your strategy and not be its own entity. It’s especially dangerous with software development. Clients ideate solutions and create a spec without involving tech people. The brief/spec becomes the aim and the client forgets the goal. If the tech partner doesn’t know what the final goal is, they may be implementing or building a new piece of software for something redundant.
Say for example a client wants to increases their revenue by £100k that year. They decide to ask a tech specialist to build them an e-commerce site. This would create a new revenue stream.
If the tech partner is doing their job right, they want to look at the bigger picture. An e-commerce site would be a huge investment, so the tech specialist has deep dive into their processes. There is no reporting software. Their stock managing software is poor, it doesn’t allow for product wastage. Their margins are all over the place.
The tech specialist wants to first concentrate on their processes. With better reporting, the business can make better decisions about their business. This has less risk than jumping into a new revenue stream without being well informed.
A good tech specialist needs to be asking the right questions. It’s important to ground any software project with 3 things:
The objectives: what will the business achieve if we build this software? How will it contribute to the end goal?
The measures: how will we know if we meet our objectives?
The value: how will the business be better if we install this software? Will we see more profit, scalability and less business risk? Can we quantify it?
If we look at the example of a sales platform; you’re looking at the website to generate £100k of sales in its first year. The tech team can build a great platform with superb functionality. But if your product isn’t suitable for online sales, the delivery charge is eating into your margins and you haven’t got anyone on the team to market it, then what’s the use?
A great tech partner will challenge your idea of a solution. They will use their experience to strengthen it or ditch the bits which won’t help. If the right questions are being asked and we can align our objectives, your software project becomes a quantifiable investment with business outcomes. And not a project leaving you wondering why you’re spending money on it....