13. August 2013 17:26
Sometimes I encounter customers who are surprised at the effort that it takes to create custom software. Some of these customers are very good at understanding systems and big pictures and are uncomfortable with details. Some people can do both, but I find that to be welcome rarity.
A recent customer really struck me as someone who I could have helped with the following analogy, had I had the foresight.
The customer explained the project in a twenty minute conversation where I asked some questions that he agreed were things he hadn’t thought about. When I explained our requirements gathering process, which we charge a flat fee for, he was fine, but within a week he responded via email to express his frustration that we would charge him to develop a design. His email was worded rather strongly, but that was the gist of it.
I don’t think there will be a middle ground for us, but I wonder what I can do to help customers new to professional custom software development to understand it better. That’s when this analogy occurred to me:
This initial meeting has helped me understand your project at the same depth as reading a decent book review on Amazon. I know I’m interested in it, I know I’d like to read it, and I know the general plot, but I don’t know how many pages it has or a single line of its dialog. I’m not sure what the cover art looks like or who all the characters are. I’d like to setup another meeting with you where we will try to brainstorm more of these details, narrow our cast and focus on what really is important for the first book in what may become a series. I’ll take these notes and spend a significant amount of time developing them further, making sure no one else has already written this book, and then come back to you with all the notes, designs, research, and a fixed price quote to write this book for you. If you decide its not worth it at that point, or that someone else will write it better or cheaper than I can, you’re free to take these designs and have someone else write your book.