Paul Traylor / Culture Noodles & Doodles / November 7th, 2013

Client Communication Tips for (Nervous) Developers – 352 Noodles & Doodles

One of our chief concerns during our switch to agile web development was the shift in client communication from project managers directly to our developers. We’ve already talked about how our project managers were able to give up control and become servant-leaders to their teams, but what about our developers and designers? In an agile environment, the development team speaks directly to the client on a daily basis, working with them as just another member of the team.

At 352, that has provided an incredible boost in morale, engagement and client satisfaction, but we realize that it can be a real challenge for developers who are used to working in a heads-down, waterfall process. So how can developers overcome any anxiety they feel about engaging directly with clients? Interactive Designer Paul Traylor walks us through some tips in this episode of 352 Noodles & Doodles. Enjoy!

Transcription below:

[Paul Traylor:] Hi I’m Paul Traylor, I’m an interactive designer with 352, and today I’m here to talk to you about client communication for nervous developers.
 
Tip 1: Get up to speed early. The best way to gain confidence is to be over prepared for any client meeting. It’s very easy to do, it doesn’t take long. I know that even in our fast paced world with our fast paced development cycles, it can be difficult to find lag time from one project to the next. Sometimes the simple act of taking 5, 10, 15 minutes simply to touch base with your project manager, a sales rep, perhaps a business analyst who sat in on initial sales, can get you a wealth of information very quickly, and can really help build your confidence because you’ll know about the client.
 
Also, find out what the meeting is about. Check out their website. Check out their competitor’s website. This doesn’t have to take long, but 15 minutes well spent doing research will dramatically help boost your confidence. Be over prepared.
 
Tip 2: The client is your friend. I know this is hard to think about, because we all feel intimidated initially, but especially if you’re in an agile development world, you’re going to find that the client is basically the newest member of your team. You’re meeting with them every single day. They are your new best friend. You both share the same goal. You both want the project to be as successful as it can possibly be. They’re rooting for you; they’re your number one fan.
 
Tip 3: Calling this one “CSS”, “ASPX”, “JSNET”, what? Let’s talk tech. So, when is it appropriate to use technical terms? When is it not appropriate to use technical terms? We  just talked about agile, and we just talked about having the client potentially in many of your meetings. If that’s the case, then it’s going to be unavoidable that you’re going to be using many tech terms.The important thing is to explain to the client those tech terms.
 
Now here I’m not talking about really incredibly detailed minutiae; you really need to be explaining higher-level things. Keep the super technical talks to yourself, but, you’ll find that after explaining things a couple of times to your clients, they’re right there with you the next time you say it. So, don’t be afraid to use the technical terms. It’s an inherent part of communicating effectively with your peers, and just think of them again as another member of your team.
 
Tip 4: A team is a self supporting structure. You like our teepee? So, the important thing here is that you’re supporting your team, and that means not only being engaged when you’re talking and it’s your topic; it means being there and participating and listening for everybody’s talk, because you never know when the conversation is going to snap back to you. And it’s very embarrassing to a team if it snaps back to you, and everybody has to recap to let you know what just happened. So, stay there. Stay in the moment. Listen when everybody’s talking. It’s a great way to avoid hiccups.
 
That’s about it. We know you’re a busy developer. Why don’t you take some of this additional time and go find out about your next client meeting?
 
Again, thanks for watching. I’ve been Paul Traylor for 352.
  • Andrew Keller

    Great advice from one of the best client-communicators I know. I’m glad that we as a company and industry can admit that the best developers are often the worst communicators, and work to overcome that.

  • http://www.wimpyprogrammer.com/ Andrew Keller

    Great advice from one of the best client-communicators I know. I’m glad that we as a company and industry can admit that the best developers are often the worst communicators, and work to overcome that.