Friday, April 27, 2007

A Positive No

About six months ago I worked on a Proof of Concept for one wonderful Client. The task was to prove that some of the processes can be automated. Even the task was pretty straight forward but it was a critical component for the customer. We identified 5 or 6 elements to implement. As the assignment was for two weeks and the scope was PoC, we did not build all the functionalities of the product. It was an agreed upon scope. Driven by the success of this application the customer went ahead and purchased the entire suite and are in process of EOL'ng their old system. The client wanted to add a couple of new functionalities to have and they contacted our department to send me back in for some reasons including my integrity and familiarity with the application. I appreciated their faith.

#Phase II
The owner of the application had changed since. I was invited to give my assessment on the effort required for the new functionalities. As the application was built as a PoC, I suggested not to deploy the application as is, and gave close to 4 weeks of effort to re-build/re-factor the application to make it production deployable. It was not we will do it in 4 weeks but whoever should do it should expect the same. "It was a good speech but if we need to expand the application we will do the rest in-house. We just need you to add the two new functionalities in the existing code" was the response of the new Client manager. We got 10 days. I scoped the work and sent our assumptions of the test environment. The new developer from the client had entirely different view of what functionalities the application should have. I agreed with him. Even though we were already under tight schedule, we re-factored the code to make it more scalable. We delivered the application. Our intentions were good.

#Phase III
A chain of emails started... Nothing is working. I was with another client now. I tried to understand his "Nothing". After a week of emails the client figures out that they did not create the test data right and were passing wrong arguments. I felt bad for them even though we had engaged the team which we did the PoC with and the knowledge transfer should have happened on their side. My engagement was over but we got another email to add few more functionalities. I was not available, it was out of scope and I remembered the words "If we need it we will do it...". Another email thread started, how everything was working but one piece. After finishing up my 10 hrs with my client, I stole hrs at the hotel to work on his problems. Our intentions were good.

#Phase IV - The Positive No
I got a very fiery email from the developer (not his manager). "We are working on this problem but what about the other functionalities we want to add? When are you going to deliver that? We hired you to complete the application". He had crossed the line. I was reading "The Power Of A Positive No" by William Ury then. That was it. He tried to push me to the edge. I had to take my Plan-B. I engaged my Manager. He is one of the exceptional pro-active Manager's I have ever seen. He engaged the customer, and the sales manager of the product. I think he did his job as I got an email from the same developer - "We have completed the rest of the functionalities ourselves. We don't need your assistance no more". Awesome! Even though the tune of the email was not polite, thats what I wanted to hear from them from the very beginning. The customer had to take the ownership and need to build the expertise in-house if "They wanted to do what they needed, themselves". Driven by my Positive No I was happy to see my Customer stand on their own feet. Not sure what perspective they have. Our intentions were still good.

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