Thursday, October 29, 2009

When the client is wrong, everyone is wrong

I have experience working for both internal and external clients and all levels of them (from the bottle washer up to the cook). There have been many good relationships and some bad ones….but at all times I had the understanding – based on the age old saying – that the client is always right…but what happens when the client is wrong. Well, the way I see it is, if the client is wrong EVERYONE is wrong and everyone ends up paying for it in some way, refusal or inability to pay for services, reputation and self-esteem. When signing on to do a job we sign on to deliver a successful product, one that meets/exceeds the client’s needs and provides something positive for them. Some project managers see the delivery of what was asked in a timely/cost-effective manner as the only real measurement for them…how wrong they are. When you sign on for the job, you’re joining a team, you’re part of the group effort to make something positive happen and part of the blame if it doesn’t meet ALL of the client’s needs. Bottom line – in my opinion – if you don’t want to be part of the team don’t sign on, if you’re not at the level where you have ‘some skin in the game’ than there’s a good chance you’re not fully committed and that could be start of something bad.


  1. This is an interesting subject for discussion. I share your "client is always right" point of view, but at the same time we hear a lot of opinions about customers not knowing what they need.

    Personally, I know this kind pretty well. And have done projects for them.

    Now the question is how should vendor play when they believe customer is heading wrong way or doesn't know where they want to go at all? Let's put aside answers like "convince them to your way of doing things or don't sign the contract" and focus on reasonable options.

    I used to work in projects where we followed the rule "they pay, they expects" and we basically delivered every single feature they specified (and some which they hadn't) no matter how useless they were. And believe me, some of them were utterly wrong. To be honest, while being completely fair with the customer I'm not so sure whether it is the best way, even though sometimes that's the only way.

    I prefer open-ended projects where we set up detailed short-term goals along with the customer while heading toward preset general direction. This gives opportunities for marketing or product owners to change or add features as situation changes but it's really hard to commit to deliver specific long list of features on specific long-term deadline. This can be real pain in the neck when it comes to corporate politics and I mean both people on vendor's side and on customer's side here.

    Usually constraints are set by customers. They rarely leave project management process unspecified.

  2. You can only help those that are open to being helped, a very limited group out there. For those that won't take advice or feel that they are in the right there's only a few options: delivery what they want and suffer/succeed with them, jump ship and feel morally right, wait and see and let time make the decision for you....Very few people will take a open-ended project approach, some will take short/quick steps and reflection..

  3. I think, the client is king, they made ​​us work, so whatever the client wants we must be willing, but remain in the context of our work, but when a client asks us to work on a project that is not our area of ​​expertise, we have the right to refuse

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