Protecting your customer … from unnecessary requests

Today I stumbled over a twitter post:

This one is referring to the “product deathcycle”. This picture shows one part of the problem. Another part are requirements which cause the customer to be unhappy about you (the vendor). Every business analyst or requirements engineer knows about those customer demands.

So… Why are some requirements worse than others or why do they even harm the relationship to you.

IMHO requirements that are creating “un-happiness” are those which solve the problem that was on top of the customers mind while the key account (or business analyst) was visiting the customer. I’ve seen so many occurrences where a key account came back from the customer site with dozens of new ideas where most of them are “urgent”, “out of discussion”, “essential for our users” or even “important for our relationship”. Anyhow, the last one is somewhat an exception because that is usually a request to get something for free ;).

What is happening here that most of those urgent requirements result out of a single incident or escalation currently on the desk of the customer. If you solve this problem (probably included in a release several month later) it is out of the customer’s mind and usually therefore not urgent anymore.

Try to evaluate (together with the customer or through experience) if the customer’s requirement is a lasting one (no one time shot, really required and not part of a single escalation). In any other case try to see if the requirement can be

  • cancelled in the first place (i.e. convince the customer that he doesn’t need this requirement),
  • replaced by something the customer really demands (is lasting, improves efficiency, …),
  • cancelled during the offer process or
  • (as a last resort) deny to provide an offer for a specific requirement

The latter two ones are usually the ones with the most negative feedback from the customer. They should be avoided by using one of the first two options.

I cannot remember how often a customer came around with an important report the management (or somebody else) demands. After further evaluation the usual cancellation reasons where:

  1. One time demand (results in one day in Excel or two weeks in software),
  2. Exists already in slightly different form and is sufficient or
  3. Can be easily created in Excel with existing reports or data


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