We strive to make everybody happy in our professional lives. That is the goal of consulting, after all. We’re there to make our clients’ dreams come true. And the really successful ones seem to have a hotline to Miracle Workers. I am always in awe of somebody who is able to creatively dance around the limitations and create truly amazing works of art. I’ve been told by some of my customers/supervisors that I’ve been able to make magic happen on occasions. “If you can dream it,” I am fond of saying, “then I will move Heaven and Earth to make it happen.” That should be everybody’s goal.
Rome, as the story goes, wasn’t built in a day. And the story of Genesis took 6 days (seven, if you believe that a day off was part of the original project plan).
As highly qualified professionals, we owe it to our customers to advise them as early as possible that complex processes take time. Never start your first implementation meeting with what seems like the easiest question: “So, when you want this done by?” That’s not the way surgeons work; neither mechanics nor novelists do well working to externally imposed deadlines. We fit in the same categorization as artisans primarily because what we do is not cookbook, but custom tailored to each individual setting. You owe it to your new customers to guide them through the project management phase so that a sensible implementation date can be set. Start with the basics – ask about where they are now, where they want to go, and how much of the present has to remain with them. Hold their hand, so to speak, as you refer back to your previous implementation experiences. Use them as a kind of fuzzy road map, empowering you to plan out future milestones. Find out about all the “unspoken” desires – things that might be considered “well, of course, there’s no discussion necessary” by a well-meaning client – such as integration points, security restrictions, data conversions and the like. We have all learned that these “little” points are usually the ones that cause the biggest bumps in the road and lead to the largest headaches later on. And as hard as it is to say, be honest with the customer about the capabilities that you have at your disposal. You never want to be in a situation where you are overextended and there is no backup plan.
Nobody likes to wake up on Christmas morning and find that the wished-for pony hasn’t materialized (or worse, turned into a pair of socks). And that includes our clientele – they don’t want surprises when go-live day hits. Tactful conversations throughout the engagement about the realities of time help prevent any hurt feelings when the wrapping paper finally comes off.
-Jeffrey Bromberger, Consultant – CISA, CRISC
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