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So I think this might be me soon!
Excuse my ignorance in this post, I am not formally educated and young! =S
(Taken from http://theoatmeal.com/comics/design_hell) alt text

Im building an inhouse application for a bank and it might not be big but its the largest project I've worked on.

Issues I can't do much about

  1. There is tons of beaurocracy in doing anything, it took 4 months to get them to sign a contract with me.
  2. I have to work with Finance managers, who have never worked with someone making software for them.
  3. I am not usually taken seriously because I am young.

My Problems

  1. The managers don't give a crap about the Bank and they never bother to read my emails most of the time, or give me any input on mockups or demos. I spent 20 hours over 2 days on the last mockup and they would rather crap on the phone than attend the meeting!

  2. New features keep coming and going like hot cakes and they just cannot decide which ones are important. Or they don't care to discuss it! And the top dogs keeps reminding me of the dealines!?

My question

So Im going straight to the top dogs to politely try to change things. These guys however are older and won't give me much time, I need a very convincing, quick, succinct way to explain to them how important it is that their "managers" communicate with me and tell me what the heck they want and what they don't
Any funny presentations or pictures like oatmeal would be really awesome to show the top dogs.

Other Solutions I was thinking of

  1. Signing up for teambox.com (as opposed to email!)
  2. If in 3 days I dont get a response on a feature it is NO MORE!
  3. I display features on a board and they get 5 secs to tell me if its important or not.

Any more policies I should adopt? Any other ideas?

Thanks so much, Gideon

EDIT


In response to the first comment: The departmental heads (top dogs) are the people really looking forward to shiny software that will solve all their problems. They are more or less the stakeholders but I don't interact with them much, I only interact with their subordinates(the managers).

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A couple of questions first. Why don't the Finance Managers give a crap about the bank? What are they going to get out of this internal app? –  Martijn Verburg Nov 4 '10 at 16:50
    
Sorry I was unclear. I edited my answer. –  gideon Nov 4 '10 at 19:54
    
Interesting to read the politics here. It sounds like the Finance Managers need to be convinced of the benefits, perhaps this app is being forced on them by the top dogs and they don't like it! I find a trip to the pub sorts this out pretty quick :-) –  Martijn Verburg Nov 5 '10 at 10:27
    
hah! lol ... actually its more like the managers just hate the bank, they bicth about it a lot. They're friendly with me, but they feel like its never going to happen or they have better things to do and they waste a lot of my time, but I can't really get myself to tell them anything. –  gideon Nov 5 '10 at 12:38
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4 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

Generally speaking, you don't want to try and play power politics here, especially as an outsider. But you do have to be firm! I'd suggest the following:

1 Send a message to the Finance Managers and the top dogs that you're really concerned this project is going to fail. Set up a meeting request as well.

2 Follow that up with phone calls to each of them to make sure they come along to the meeting.

  • At the meeting explain that you understand that they are very busy and it can be difficult to spend the time on reviewing your designs etc. But make it crystal clear that they've hired you as the expert and in your expert opinion this project will fail without their valued input. Ask them if there is a different way that they'd like to communicate with you in terms of the design reviews etc. A humorous comic can help here, but the message has to be deadly serious. Again back this up with real examples of projects failing in the past - remember they hired you as the expert in this.

  • If you're into one of the many Agile techniques, you can bring up some of those principles as well and give examples of projects having a higher success rate because of small faster feedback cycles.

Good luck!

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Generally sound advice, though most management types, especially in an industry like the finance industry, don't care about agile development. You need to make your pitch for a change focused on ROI: the Return they get On their Investment. Make them understand that they can have a mediocre-at-best product or they can (for no additional cost) become engaged in the process and have a great product. Make the bosses understand that the finance managers are wasting the company's money by not engaging. –  HedgeMage Nov 4 '10 at 17:06
    
thanks so much! Perhaps my question was a little hazy but you read right through it. What do you think about teambox? Any more ideas on how I could get them to decided on features quick, instead of me us just rambling forever about it! –  gideon Nov 4 '10 at 20:29
    
@giddy Teambox is fine as a collaboration tool. But remember it's only a tool, it's the process/getting people on board which is the key :-) – karianna 0 secs ago edit –  Martijn Verburg Nov 5 '10 at 10:25
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I had a teacher once who went into this stuff, about working with clients... Thought I'd never need to know or use this stuff. Paid attention anyway. Glad I did, too.

First and foremost: Get everything in writing! Everything! You make a design that they like? Get them to sign off on it. Make a feature list of everything they want in the program? Signature, please! When all is said and done, the contract is usually put together and signed with all these documents, and that is that. Usually, after that contract is signed, what is in the contract is exactly what you work on. No more, no less.

So, what I would say is, first things first, check your contract. See if you have room to do this, since it is already a signed thing.

If so, signature, signature, signature. If the feature they want to add, you can tell them, "Sorry, but this contract I have here says that's not going to be in the program." Alternatively, "Sorry, but this contract I have here says that's not going to be in the program, BUT... if you want to add it, it'll cost this much more and take this much longer. Sign here please!"

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I'm not saying this is a wrong answer, but.... ;). I used to work this way as well when I started out as a fresh young consultant. I deliberately avoid this method now though - I much prefer working collaboratively with the client as opposed to brow beating them with sign-offs (which always seemed to end in a mud-slinging them vs us match). It's what the SCC movement is partly about I guess. –  Martijn Verburg Nov 4 '10 at 17:10
    
I'd like to think this is the wrong answer as well, but unfortunately I have yet to hear of a situation where a young developer is taken seriously without it. –  Aeo Nov 4 '10 at 17:37
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A better approach to this is to okay things through some click-through method online. Not only does this save running back and forth with contracts, but the client doesn't feel like they need legal advice every time you ask them something. It goes a lot smoother, even though you are doing the same thing: presentation matters. –  HedgeMage Nov 4 '10 at 18:04
    
Hmm thanks! Yes, I learnt that the hard way with an older project. I do have a contract! I does have a 16 page description of features etc. But, just weeks after the contract itself, some features were really deduced to be useless and other more important things appeared now without which the system cannot work for them! I just want to convince them that they NEED to be part of this, I can't read their minds! –  gideon Nov 4 '10 at 20:12
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I think teambox is a good solution, i use it but only for manage my work without it my software plans will drifting about a target solutions.

You can talk about it with your managers, you can contact with her in general only via teambox, he will be creating and assigning tasks for you or think about something other usable of this or other project managment software.

In second way, you are not dramatic young;-) I think you are not enough serious for this team, you should have Project Owner for communicating with persons to get informations about product how you must develop.

Product Owner deciding about queue of features and this person deciding on what will be next and what not. You will be decide about when this will be and when you will be have time for next feature, what you want for do it and other things will be doing with Product Owner

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Aeo mentioned getting things in writing. You can write up a Word document containing the features that are agreed upon, and update it when things change. A simple Word document may be easier for the bank employees to understand than having to learn how to use a specialized website, and can be passed around easily. Make sure that you give it a version number, so that when changes happen, you can mention "did you see the new features in Requirements_1.1.doc?"

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