Great expectations (and how to live up to them)

Greg Hoy has written a thoughtful piece over at A List Apart about client and vendor expectations. Like Greg, I’ve sat on both sides of the table as those expectations are defined through discovery phases, written requirements, and more multi-colored sticky exercises than I’d care to admit to.

I think Greg’s onto something when he talks about the importance of being vague at the initial contract phase — of listing all the tools in your arsenal, but not committing specifically to which ones will be used. It’s just too soon. Too often agencies have an inflexible one-size-fits-all methodology that the team frogmarches through. But we all know that clients (and their enterprise constraints) vary, as do specific project needs. Far better to take the counter-intuitive approach: “Instead of prematurely committing to a course of action that may or may not be appropriate for the project, we identify all of the possible artifacts we could produce in each phase. Then we commit to zero of them.

Of course, this vague an approach only works if you have the same end result in mind — and that understanding has to be mutual and comprehensive before any SOW is drafted, let alone signed. The project has to have a client-led but ultimately shared understanding of the overarching business goals, and how the end product will satisfy, empower, and ideally delight the end user. The shared vision needs to be crystal clear, but the deliverables to get there can and should be re-visited as you go.

Photo credit: haagenjerrys

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