Whilst working on some of our marketing collateral, I came across a project where I was requested to work as an independent project management consultant, evaluate a project and recommend how both the project and their client relationship could be rescued.  We brought in one of our senior test consultants as well, looked into what had happened and made our recommendation.

What we found was surprising.  To cut a long story short, we found that the sole basis for a design was a powerpoint presentation.  The design itself was a powerpoint presentation and what had been ‘delivered’ didn’t meet the customer’s’ expectations and fundamentally didn’t work.

Well, actually it just didn’t work at all.

We met with the company that produced the design and asked why they had done as they did.  Amongst other things, we were told that the reason behind some of the ‘deliverables’ was that ‘that’s what the customer wanted’ and ‘you can’t say no to a customer’ (ironically, they had been subcontracted the work and had left their customer on the line for a rather significant sum.

I disagreed and continue to disagree that you can’t tell a customer ‘no’.  Especially when what they want costs a large amount of development effort that has neither been included in the plan or priced.

Can you tell a customer ‘no’?  Does that depend on your relationship or the parameters within which you are operating?  I believe that when you engage experts, a customer expects those experts to both act in their best interests and act with integrity.  They expect you to tell them when something can’t or shouldn’t be done.  To work out what they are trying to achieve and why.  And if appropriate propose a better solution in concert with their aims.

Our ultimate recommendation was the the project stop and either be restarted or cancelled.  We had determined that to both rescue their relationship and expend the least amount of money, a restart was the best course of action.  This is never an answer a company wants to hear.  Certainly not when significant resource has been expended.  Our customer, the vendor disagreed.  We parted ways and our invoice was paid.

Incidentally, the end customer decided to restart the project.  With a different vendor.

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