“Ask the Pro” SERIES OF INTERVIEWS- brought to you by TRIANGELA AB
EPISODE 1-The programmer meets the business man
Today we start our journey within the IT industry with Alexandra, a senior Share Point programmer, who will SHARE with us her tips to becoming the business negotiator employers want and clients entrust their business to.
A sunny Sunday afternoon in Stockholm. As I have been craving for the sun all week long, there´s nothing in the world that could stop me from taking advantage of some light and cheerfulness. I pick up the phone and call Alexandra.
Half an hour later we are face to face, myself a little skittish, Alexandra pretty confident about her gaming tactics. She has been practicing tennis for a year now, so it makes sense why. I myself haven’t worked out on my serves in a while, but come on! I can do this! Besides, I remember my coach having complimented me on my strong grip. Well, it happened fifteen years ago, but that´s just an insignificant detail, right? Wrong! 😊 After a “cruel” match, I swallow my pride and must admit to loosing. I´m gonna get her next time!
“Want to go for a lemonade?” Alexandra smiles. “Got to celebrate the victory.” Can’t say no to that. Match or no match, Alexandra has always been such a good companion, so it´s always a pleasure to hang out with her. As we start discussing life, I look at my friend and find her exuberating positivity.
“Have you won the lottery or what?”
“No.” She chuckles. “It´s work. Things are getting better every day.”
The senior web developer of a software infrastructure provider, Alexandra is that Share Point programmer many project managers before used to fear. Well, not anymore.
“They love me now!” she laughs.
I am so happy for her. If there is someone who deserves appreciation, Alexandra must be that person. Working her way up for the past ten years in the IT industry, this girl has the technical acumen many 30-year-olds would envy; that´s why I couldn’t grasp what had been missing before anyway; yet it had.
“Communication and tolerance!” she starts opening up. “You can´t imagine how far a mix of both can take us.”
I can´t agree more, yet I must find out how SHE reached this conclusion.
“At my former work place, I used to see things in black and white. The project manager or the business consultant would organize an internal meeting to update me on our client´s needs and days later I would present her with a list of steps I would need to take to deliver…. A very technical list, if I may add. The business consultant would look at me, take a long breath deep into her lungs and ask me to schedule a meeting where we would all sit at the table with the customer. Why are processes so time consuming? I would ask myself. Wasn’t it enough to deliver?”
By now I have figured out the unraveling of her story, but I am not going to stop her; just the contrary, I myself having worked in business and finance ever since I was 20 years old, I find it interesting to see how projects feel on the other side of the barricade: to the “techie” guys.
“The company where I worked…” she continues “would have its own product advertised to potential clients through a team of B2B sales representatives; therefore, upon signing the offer, the client would already know what to expect. Still, the project manager would obsessively pinpoint the price and the time issues as her main worries. Price and time? I would think. What´s with that? See, Maria, very seldom would our customers buy the product without adding to it functionalities to fit their internal structure.”
“And the more functionalities, the higher your time cost and the employment of resources.”
“Exactly! My project manager would insist:
Alexandra, you have to make it clear for them that custom made functionalities and upgrades lead to a higher internal budget our company has to employ. The higher the budget, thus the higher the price we charge. Can you explain that?
I believed I could, yet, despite the scheduled meetings along the course of the project, my project manager would still find herself in distress a week into the deadline:
Deadline´s coming! We have so much work left! Estimations were wrong! The time and budget buffer were too low! There´s no way we can test it internally at this stage!
Oh my God, really? Again? Among quality assurance to deliver the final version with only one testing of the Log In functionality at best had turned into a habit. How was that possible? A product having gone through our internal testing department that superficially shouldn’t have received the green light to begin with. Moreover, be handed over to the customer for their internal testing the next day. What were we doing wrong?
And then, the CFO of a smaller client that had bought our product (a prearranged ERP solution with custom HR functionalities to later architect) expresses his interest to take part at our technical meeting. At the time and the hour scheduled, there I am, the senior IT consultant assigned to the project, flawlessly going through my list of technicalities. Half way through what I was ready to call a top-notch presentation, he croaks his voice and very politely as well as candidly makes a remark:
Miss, with all due respect, I don’t understand a word you are saying! He smiles at me, raising his shoulders. It´s not me being rude… he adds, but I really don’t, and to buy a product I don’t understand would be a pity, wouldn’t it? Just as much of a pity saying no to something that could help my business would also be.”
This had never happened to me before. I mean, my project manager informed me this guy could be…more direct…but this direct? An awkward silence takes over the room as my guy waits for an answer:
Make me understand why I should pay the extra dime and I will pay it. As I look at him, I panic for a second and then I remember all about my project manager´s panic. Yep! This guy is right! Better panic now than when it´s too late.”
“Better discover and understand each other now, then when it´s too late.” I relate.
“Exactly. The more I think about it, the more grateful I am to our man for having spoken up his mind when he did. Not only was that meeting a strike of creativity for me, but we all ended up very pleased with the result: he got himself the best product for his business´s needs and we collected a good profit (no shame in acknowledging every business works towards a profit and so did we).”
“Why was that meeting a strike of creativity to you?” I frown my forehead with doubt and a shadow of laughter.
“Well, as far as he was concerned, I had obviously been trying to deliver a message and he had obviously experienced a problem in getting it. As far as we were concerned, him and his company had obviously delivered a message to us upon the submission of their requirements and we had obviously experienced difficulties in getting it. See, computers you can program. Errors, bugs, you have them, you fix them. You don’t, you go on. But with people it´s not that simple!”
Wow. I am astonished. To me, if you can program there is absolutely no limit to what you can do. Sounds kind of funny to have Alexandra (a senior Share Point programmer having practiced the magic of coding throughout four years of high school, three of college and ten of working experience) talking about limits and alluding to challenges.
“Not really. See Maria, we need each other. Whether we are testers, senior testers, designers, release managers, project managers, developers, senior developers, financial directors, sales representatives, marketing directors, we all work towards the common goal: our client´s satisfaction. And guess what? Our client´s ultimate goal should be the same as ours: his own satisfaction. Make your clients understand why, and I promise you they will pay. Deliver a good product and I promise you they will return. Be on their team and make them know you are! It´s not about money. It´s all about communication and relations. No unnecessary vanity and no playing roles neither you nor they wish to play. It is that simple: no appearances. You should always focus on being dedicated to making your clients´ businesses prosper, and they will make yours too.”
Want to be our next IT PRO? Contact us on [email protected] and be featured in the next interview in Episode 2 of our “Ask the Pro” series.