Want to be successful? Don’t hire a yes man.

By Zoe Cunningham
Posted on 15 January 2019

Getting the best from an outsourced service provider can be tricky. But as Zoe Cunningham, MD, Softwire, insists, a company that always says yes, is never going to deliver.

A Better Yes

The customer is not always right. Indeed, those companies that say yes to whatever the customer demands could be doing more harm than good. This applies to any professional service – why tell an accountant how to audit the accounts? – but most especially software development, where the sheer complexity of any project creates the opportunity for chaos and confusion without the right approach.

The fact is that whatever an organisation’s wants, when it comes to software development the answer could, pretty much, always be yes – assuming the business has the time and money to throw at the problem. But should the answer be yes? Rarely.

Does a business really understand what is required?  Or know how to design the best system? Most probably not – or why approach a third party developer?  Agreeing without question to anything the customer demands is a very shallow level of communication, and a software developer could, and should, do so much more. Why does the business want to go in this direction? How do you plan to use this feature? Simple questioning techniques cannot only fine-tune the business’ requirements but also create a constructive conversation that reveals far more about the organisation and its goals.

Saying yes upfront misses the opportunity to say a better yes further down the line, once the actual requirements are far better defined and understood.

A Better Way

Plus there may well be a better way of doing things.  With software development there is never one, single route to achieve a goal; there are always many different ways to reach the same objective. Following the demands of the customer to the letter may result in the gold standard software solution but is it the best option for the business? Would a slightly cut down version at a quarter of the price actually deliver a better ROI? Or not? A company that says yes to everything is not only limiting its options but reducing the value it can deliver to its customers.

And this is key – organisations should be wary of any professional services partner that offers a blanket yes response.  Not all projects are viable; not all requests make sense. It is the professional responsibility of any organisation to say no when a demand will compromise a project. No, for example, to requests to cut out testing in order to reduce costs. Testing is an integral aspect of software development, not an add-on; cut out that part and the systems will not work as expected. And no to changes that will lead to project delays and cost increases. If a company is making continuous demands for additional features, there will be an impact on the project – and failure to communicate this fact will only lead to disappointment all round.

Indeed, if a software developer is always saying yes – wonder why. What value is being delivered by an organisation that does nothing but agree with project direction and development concepts? A key aspect of a successful development is the expertise and experience of the development team – and that value can only be achieved through a constructive dialogue; by understanding the business goal; through saying a better Yes.