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I have a meeting with a prospective client tomorrow for a certain e-commerce project he wants to commission. I had an overview of it over the phone and from what I understand there are gazillion such concepts already floating and most of them are disasters and I have reasons to believe that his project is significantly likely to have the same fate.

Should I raise/discuss the commercial feasibility of his idea with him or simply accept the project, give my best and leave out all the rest?

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closed as off topic by maple_shaft Sep 24 '12 at 14:12

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Personally I'd certainly state my objections (while still making sure to note that I'd accept the project, if he wants to proceed). This might lead to you not getting the project (either because the client agrees or because he thinks you are not commited), but I think it's the better option when compared to working on the project that you don't believe on and not even telling the client. Your objections might even lead him to rework his concept towards a higher chance of success. – Joachim Sauer Sep 24 '12 at 13:40
I think this might have been a good question for (I think the general principles can probably be applied to non-programming projects) - can it be migrated and reopened there? – FrustratedWithFormsDesigner Sep 24 '12 at 15:28
@maple_shaft I'm fairly sure this question wouldn't apply to "any profession", and I also think the answer may be different depending on the industry and what your position is within the project. In this case, the industry is Software Development, and the person asking appears to be responsible for accepting or rejecting the project. This is the sort of question I would want an answer specifically from a programmer, and that I think that programmers would find the answers interesting as well (I know I would). Please consider reopening this. – Rachel Sep 24 '12 at 15:39
@Rachel - What if you were the owner of a plastics mouldings company and someone came to you with an idea for some widget you knew would fail? – ChrisF Sep 24 '12 at 16:07
I think the last paragraph of @Rachel's answer captures my dilemma. I thought this site was about programmers (title?) but turns out to be about software development. Or is it? – WeaklyTyped Sep 24 '12 at 16:19

2 Answers 2

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: As the implementer for the project, you need to understand as much about the product as possible. This includes market and technical conditions, which you may not understand as well as the client. If you believe it will fail, you may subconsciously not work as hard.

Explain your concerns to him:

  1. Start with facts first, like "Similar products like X, Y and Z have not done well. Company A folded last year with this product." Make sure they are facts beforehand, too.
  2. Then tell your story "I am concerned this project will also fail". Delaying your story means the client may deduce your concerns before you get to them, making them less threatening and more persuasive.
  3. Ask the client to tell you why you are wrong. Create a situation where the client is safe to discuss this. Use a contrasting statement to clarify your intent "I am not trying to make this fail. I am trying to ensure we are successful".

Lastly, consider approaching the problem from a different angle. For example, would using an off-the-shelf system as a prototype be useful to try out the market or idea?

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Also, wording is important here. You can bring these concerns up as "risks" rather than going straight to "this project is doomed." – RQDQ Sep 24 '12 at 13:46

Quick Answer: It will depend.

Should I raise/discuss the commercial feasibility of his idea with him or simply accept the project, give my best and leave out all the rest?

It would depend on which terms are you involved in this project. If you are offered to be co-owner or have significant share in this project then definitely you should raise all questions.

However, if you are contacted ONLY to do the web development and paid on your deliverable list items, then you should focus on clarifying requirements and delivering on time.

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Only for development – WeaklyTyped Sep 24 '12 at 13:45
I would do my business analysis(requirement gathering) to come up with the most suitable(cost effective solution) with a door for later expansion (by taking into account possible scalability issues) – Yusubov Sep 24 '12 at 13:49
I agree with this answer, compared to the accepted one. It's not your place to judge the project of the other person. If they did their business analysis correctly, they should already be fully aware of the risk and competitors that failed/succeeded. – dyesdyes yesterday

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