From our team members, from our leadership, from our customers. It happens. What are the toughest questions you've run into on the projects you've worked on? Be thinking about that as you read these words. I guess some of these aren't such difficult questions, but they can be very common and can be the result of mis-information that was not within your control... leaving you to clean up the situation or get all parties on the same page and moving forward toward the same goals.
So here are my five biggest, toughest and probably most common complex questions that come up on the projects I've led or worked on – specifically technical projects. Please be thinking about your own personal five and share your thoughts at the end. Thanks!
Why isn't training included?
Don't get me started. Ok, I will start. This has happened to me more than once and it has always been a due to a disconnect between what the customer needed to help us understand what they really needed and what the sales team told them and sold them. If your client is buying a customizable solution then they need some understanding of how that custom solution should and will work to meet their needs and business processes once it's configured for their end users. They need to be able to help you document requirements and test the solution.
Can you make this technology work?
I'm guessing this is fairly common question. Many clients come with an idea of the technical solution and sometimes they are looking for the latest and greatest bleeding edge technology and they want to showcase it on their project in their business unit. Can you make this work? No pressure, huh? The project manager and the business analyst must stick to their guns and come up with the right shaped peg for the hole... not trying to shove a square peg in a round hole just because the client is requesting it. Why? Because at the end of the day, if it doesn't work... it will still be your fault no matter who demanded it.
Can we move these phases around in the schedule?
This will eventually fall to the project manager because it's a project schedule issue to resolve or negotiate. But that initial request and the need to figure out if it is even possible will at least initially fall to the business analyst to liaison with the project manager and tech lead to discuss and figure out if it's feasible. While this may come up from time to time, it is far from typical or easy to answer. Much has to be analyzed. The affects can be small – but often time they are far reaching and with a change like this can come risks. How will the remaining phases be affected? How will testing and acceptance be affected? How will the budget and and project timeline be affected? All potential risks, problem areas and touch points must be identified, discussed and addressed.
I need this but I have no budget. How much will that cost?
Changes come up on every project. The problem is the customer may not have budget for all those needed aspects and functionality of the solution that didn't quite come up at requirements definition time. Now those are change requests and they want the change for free. The customer asking for something for free? That never happens. Right. But you can't blame them for trying. Business analysts... if you haven't been asked a question like this on a technical implementation then you must be living under a rock.
Can you replace one of the developers on the team?
From time to time you may run into a client who doesn't mesh well with someone on the team. You may get subjected to a specific request to replace a particular member of the team or receive some negative feedback about one of your co-workers. When of my project customers once asked me to replace the tech lead because he was always showing some much frustration and concern over every issue that came up on the project. It made the customer feel uneasy – like he had very little patience and ability to deal with difficult situations. They wanted him replaced. I talked it over with the tech lead, explained the situation and asked him to not make it sound like the sky was falling every time there was an issue – but rather to show confidence. It turned things around and they did stick it out with him... eventually very much enjoying working with him by the end of the project.
Summary / call for input and feedback
At the end of the day all we really want to do is implement a great working solution for our customer and their end users. Then we want to ride off into the sunset and basque in the glory of a successful project well done on the shores of Belize for a couple of weeks sipping on margaritas. Is that too much to ask? Well, yes, it is. In reality we are sometimes happy if we can get out of town by the dark of midnight with a customer who had a good solution in their hands and can now contact tech support for help rather than ask the delivery project team every question that comes to mind. At roll out customers can sometime be as nervous as a kindergartener getting dropped off day one of school and doing everything they can to keep mom or dad from driving off in the mini van and hopping a plane to Belize.
Readers - especially business analysts - how do you feel about this list? Do get asked about free training, specific complex technology as a solution, free changes, or new team members to replace existing ones that the customer just doesn't like? Please share some difficult questions and requests that you've had to deal with. How did you respond? Please share and discuss.