8 Replies - 932 Views - Last Post: 02 May 2020 - 08:19 PM

#1 O'Niel   User is offline

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Only getting a complex project explained over phone

Post icon  Posted 17 April 2020 - 06:19 AM

Hi

I have to develop a pretty complex application. And while I'm sure I can do it programmatically, I do not understand the project yet (what the client actually wants in detail).
This project requires me to analyze complex data, metrics,... over a sector which I have zero experience in. This data also needs to be grouped in specific categories,...

We have called over phone, but hearing someone explain a big project like this ain't ideal.


So I asked for description/explanation of the project in text. So I can read it always over and over, mark things, and view what data the client wants analyzed,...
But it seems that my client thinks typing this down for me is a waste of time, and would rather call again.

To me it seems impossible to start developing this without having a kind of description/text like I'd have in school with school assignments.

How do you see this? How do you get big projects like this? Over phone or in text? Am I right that a description in text is fundamentally?

I'd like to be able to say "There is none software engineer who can develop this without having the description of the project in text." But this would be a false statement
if you guys get all your projects explained over phone...

Thanks. :)/>

This post has been edited by macosxnerd101: 02 May 2020 - 04:46 PM


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Replies To: Only getting a complex project explained over phone

#2 modi123_1   User is online

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Re: Only getting a complex project explained over phone

Posted 17 April 2020 - 06:48 AM

That's why you bill for design time. Get as much information as you can, and write it down.

Sketch out a design doc of what was asked, ui mock ups, etc, and send it to them.

Get some sort of approval, or iterate again with another call.

Repeat until you are sufficiently supplied with information.
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#3 astonecipher   User is offline

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Re: Only getting a complex project explained over phone

Posted 17 April 2020 - 07:08 AM

View PostO, on 17 April 2020 - 08:19 AM, said:

To me it seems impossible to start developing this without having a kind of description/text like I'd have in school with school assignments.


Welcome to life outside of school?

I would recommend a video call and a whiteboard session, maybe several, so you can document as much as possible and ask questions and design where they can see what you are thinking as well. Teams and Whiteboard can deal with this well.
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#4 Skydiver   User is offline

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Re: Only getting a complex project explained over phone

Posted 17 April 2020 - 09:30 AM

And when it comes to signing contracts, be sure to append your design documents based on your sessions with them as attachments. That way when they say that they won't pay for what you delivered because it doesn't match what they described, you have the contract with the design to point to to say you delivered what they agreed to.

You may also want to decide to take an iterative approach with multiple touch points with your client through out the week to show demos and get their feedback sooner rather than later.
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#5 ge∅   User is offline

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Re: Only getting a complex project explained over phone

Posted 17 April 2020 - 04:45 PM

I have this app on my phone which records as soon as the call starts and then asks me if I want to keep the file when it's over. This allows me to follow my interlocutor's train of thought while on the phone and only take notes and think of implementation issues when the call is over. Then I delete the file immediately.

Since I have implemented this, the quality of my calls and notes has increased dramatically, and the number of my calls has decreased (which is so important when you need to keep your program in your head).

2 very important rules though:
  • Ask the client if they mind being recorded at the beginning of the conversation (well, after the warm greeting and the small talk). Tell them for how long you keep the file and for what purpose. I personally say I struggle with oral directions (and you would be surprised by the number of people who say they are the same way). Clients tend to be more cooperative when the question has been raised, regardless of their answer.
  • never ever use the file to prove the client wrong about something they would have said or not. It is exactly the kind of thing that makes people uncomfortable with being recorded. If they made you do the wrong thing and you have a proof on record, you will be tempted to use it. Throw away the file as soon as possible so that this situation doesn't present itself. You can write down an email in which you sum up the main points of the conversation (make it super short and don't quote the client) if you feel you need to keep an official record of something.


Now you may need to talk about this with your management. This is not an issue for me but recording calls is a policy which must be approved by the company, especially when dealing with new clients.
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#6 O'Niel   User is offline

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Re: Only getting a complex project explained over phone

Posted 22 April 2020 - 06:32 AM

I'm still in school by the way, I just freelance in my spare time.
And I indeed videocalled and texted more with my client, I've sent a database-model to him to check if it was correct and he verified, so I guess I'm on track!
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#7 O'Niel   User is offline

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Re: Only getting a complex project explained over phone

Posted 02 May 2020 - 04:14 PM

I have also used the tip mentioned here to record phone/video calls. I did this - with permission - and hearing everything for the second time when you're more relaxed helps a lot.
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#8 macosxnerd101   User is online

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Re: Only getting a complex project explained over phone

Posted 02 May 2020 - 04:46 PM

View Postastonecipher, on 17 April 2020 - 10:08 AM, said:

Welcome to life outside of school?


I'm not sure this is a fair comment. There is value in having things spelled out in writing. For one, it helps us protect ourselves. It is also hard to develop software if the functionality is not precisely described. A big issue in designing software is that the target moves around. Aiming for precise specifications up front can save everyone time and headaches down the road.

I do agree with Modi- if you are doing the work to formalize the client's goals, you should get paid for it. When dealing with clients, it is usually the case that they don't know precisely what they want, but they'll know it when they see it. Figuring out what the client wants upfront is a skill that takes some practice and experience. I don't have a ton of advice here. Perhaps some more seasoned folks can weigh in on this.
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#9 Radius Nightly   User is offline

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Re: Only getting a complex project explained over phone

Posted 02 May 2020 - 08:19 PM

I like to meet with the client, talk, ask questions. I usually take a notebook so we start with drawing an UI, how did he want it to look like, i can give some advice, so he can understand, when i start working on the project, i wont be able to change it like its a character creation in the online game or how winds blow, because clients usually dont know that its complex and changing lots of things leads to starting another project, because its easier to start building a new house instead of building barrack, upgrading it to tower, modifying to house and downgrading to cottage because in the end it will look and work like sh!t, so while client are drawing and explaining, it usually becomes better for them, then we move to backgrounds of the application, what and how it should do, point is that he need to explain it to me, so i can explain it to the computer.
Then i have some sketches, descriptions, notes, guidelines, and its easier for me to start making it, specially after a conversation, because as we draw the more and more questions appear, as im more aware of what i have to do, the client slowly gets clear picture what he wants and how it looks, that leads to less changes in the future if we spend some time to deal with the project preparation, because that first step preparation is the most important and the most crucial part. If he dont have time to say/explain what he want exactly, he can later fk you in the head.
Later on, for some minor changes, in first week or so he got opportunity to think about the project and change some things, or if i have to ask some questions, it can be done over a phone, mail, another kind of message. But yeah, be sure to protect yourself from bad peoples, be aware, some are just bad, but most of them are like children, they dont know how it works and what they actually want, but they want it, and will explain it with their own language, again, like kids explaining what they want, its not always easy, rare clients would come with finished scripts of what they want, this clients usually already know how things works.

This post has been edited by Radius Nightly: 02 May 2020 - 08:33 PM

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