Is something missing from your development strategy?
Many of us unfortunately stay in the dark when it comes to improving the way we do things. After all, we can never know that we’re doing something “wrong” until it is pointed out to us. If you feel like you are doing everything “right” in your software development and yet frequently come up against dissatisfied customers or blasé reviews, you’re certainly not alone. Although it’s tempting to look for one or two quick fixes, perhaps what’s really needed is an overhaul of the way you approach a project from day one.
That’s where agile software development comes into play.
Customer Satisfaction is the First Principle of Agile Development
Customer satisfaction is at the root of agile development. As the name “agile” implies, flexibility and a willingness to adapt to changes quickly is one characteristic that sets agile developers apart. Among the core principles set forth by the Manifesto for Agile Software Development, customer satisfaction is listed first, highlighting its importance. After all, customers are the driving force behind software development. If the software doesn’t meet the needs of the end user, what purpose does it serve?
How to Keep Clients Happy During the Development Process
Listening to and understanding clients’ needs and then translating them into valuable software is certainly an art form. But building relationships with clients is an ongoing process, one in which you have countless opportunities to satisfy them and keep them happy. Here are some small but powerful ways to make each of your clients feel respected and valued.
Ditch PowerPoints, handouts and diagrams.
In progress meetings, present your clients with a working sample of the software. This reduces confusion, allows questions or concerns to be raised in a more timely fashion, and builds trust between the client and the developers. Diagrams, handouts, and PowerPoint presentations all attempt to provide a visual representation of the software, but nothing beats the real thing. Plus, demoing the software itself, even if it is a work-in-progress, saves the developer time in the long run. Who honestly has time to create a PowerPoint when sitting down with the client and the software is more effective and efficient?
Don’t be on-time; be early.
Many clients have reasonable expectations about the time it takes to develop a superior product. But at the same time, everyone loves to be surprised with early delivery. One of the key ways in which agile developers can create satisfied customers is by delivering updates earlier than expected. Set a realistic timeline for project deliverables, but build-in an extra day or two (or even longer) to guarantee that things are done before your client expects them. This underscores the fact that you’ve been working hard and gives the impression that this client is one of your top priorities. And from a client’s perspective, that feels good!
Collaborate closely with clients.
This means meeting often to show the latest progress made to the software and embracing changes that need to be made, regardless of how late in the process they are brought to light. The founders of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development recommend delivering working software on a weekly basis rather than monthly. Even if your client has concerns or negative feedback, handling them in a collaborative and constructive way helps you turn them into satisfied (and hopefully repeat!) customers.
Developer Satisfaction is Also Key
The agile development framework seeks to make developers’ lives easier and more fulfilling, resulting in happy partnerships around the office, not just with clients. What makes a work environment satisfying can vary on an individual basis, but the following generally produce good results:
- A collaborative environment, not an isolated one
- Micro-managing is avoided in favor of building confidence and trust in employees, and to allow them to create their own workflows
- Over-documentation is avoided to allow developers to focus and be efficient
- A sustainable work pace is maintained to avoid employee burnout
At the heart of an agile software development framework is a responsiveness to the needs of both clients and developers. If you and/or your employees often feel fatigued and dissatisfied, don’t try a career change just yet. Instead, learn more about agile software development. It could alter the way you approach a software development project for the better—from beginning to end.
About the Author: Dave Thomas covers marketing and business topics on the web.