working for vs. working with Customers.

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Customers are always right.

Customers know what they want.

In my career with customers ( and I’ve met a few), I’ve concluded that both our previous statements are not entirely true.

One thing that is true is, Customers have a problem to be solved. And When they hire consultants or vendors, their plain expectation is that they’d solve it.

Most of the times, customers can define their problem fairly clearly. Other times, they don’t. But lets ignore the latter ones for this post.

Ones who’ve managed to define the problem, also seem to have an idea of a solution. A solution that would work, not necessarily the best solution to the problem.

This is where consultants/vendors come in.

There are two approaches that are possible from this time on.

1. Consultants can try to reach the actual problem, and propose multiple solutions either supporting or contradicting customer’s idea.

2. Consultants can just help in executing the conceived solution for the customers.

This is the crux of the title of this post. First point is what I would like to call “working with” and the second one as “working for”.

I’ve always believed that if you have a part in designing the solution for the problem, it becomes dear to you. The level of dedication goes up a notch. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your design has been chosen as the one, it’s just that you’ve been part of the process of arriving at a solution is the key. You tend to relate to the problem better. You tend to feel a part of the solution. End Result, you perform better.

I’ve not been totally convinced with the second part. Its like a Hit-man at his job. He gets a phone call.. a picture of the person to kill.. and he goes kills him.. done. Engineering doesn’t work like that. There are many things that go into executing a solution. Morale and Passion are a big factor. If you lack that in you or the team you’re working with, be ready for mediocrity. That is what it would result in.

So you decide what you want to do.

Work with customers and relate to their problem. Deliver a solution to their actual problem (which may be better than they had thought. Exceeding expectations) or

Work for them. Deliver the solution they asked for (which may not be a solution at all). In this mode you’ll be doing great if you match expectations. Most times you’ll fail to do that too..

Modern organizations, work with customers. They’re much more concerned about customer’s investments, and most importantly.. they believe in delivering a solution that actually works.

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