How to Communicate Effectively with Clients to Develop a Workflow Solution

The applications that provide your clients with the greatest value are designed to meet their specific needs. Use this framework and these communication tips to collect the information you need.

Businesses in virtually every industry have discovered the benefits of using workflow solutions. These applications save time by assigning the right task to the right person at the right time, eliminating the need to manually prioritize and make assignments. Workflow solutions also automate repetitive tasks and eliminate redundancies so employees have more time to focus on work that brings in revenue and keeps customers happy. They even help reduce errors — as well as the cost and time required to correct them.

From an administrative standpoint, workflow solutions give managers eyes on their employees without micromanaging them. By logging into the solution, managers can gauge productivity and analyze performance. Workflow solutions also empower managers to set and enforce rules, maintain an audit trail, and use resources most effectively.

The Perfect Conversation ISV-Client Workflow Solution Conversation

The challenge for ISVs is to develop workflow solutions that deliver those benefits by tailoring applications to the customer’s unique operation. Before you can properly configure or customize a solution to adequately meet your customer’s needs, however, you need information.

A casual approach to customer meetings to discuss what they want from a workflow application is a mistake. You’ll get better information — and ultimately develop software that’s a better fit for the customer — if there’s an organized agenda:

  • Pre-meeting research: Prepare for your meeting by making sure you are familiar with the client’s industry and their type of business or niche.
  • The client’s goals: Build a clear understanding of their business goals and the role the new workflow solution needs to play. Is the primary concern reducing labor hours? Operating more efficiently and accurately? Automating to maximize revenue? Ensure the solution addresses these goals.
  • Repetition: Walk through current processes with the customer to identify duplicate efforts. If the solution involves employees in a variety of different roles, it may be a good idea to have the client ask for their input. If they are rekeying work someone else has already done, they’ll be anxious to correct that.
  • Additional challenges: Make sure you ask the client if they face any additional challenges, like widely dispersed teams that need to collaborate, difficulty getting employees to comply with tech-based processes, or the need to integrate with industry-specific applications. Taking a holistic view of the operation will result in greater customer satisfaction with the application.
  • Innovation: As you work through your agenda and gather information, be open to ideas the customer may have. Of course, you shouldn’t promise customizations that are far outside the scope of the project, but the conversation may result in ideas that improve efficiency – and that you may even be able to leverage for other clients.
Incorporate Customer Input Throughout the Development Process

Different software development methodologies are better suited to customer input. Waterfall project management follows sequential steps, laying out a plan for the project and following it through to the end. The various software development methods that fall under the Agile umbrella, however, are designed to incorporate customer input throughout the development process and to adapt to changes, rather than presenting a client with a finished product for input when the application is complete.

Using an Agile method like Scrum, Kanban, Extreme Programming, or Lean Software Development, can keep the lines of communication open with your client through the development process, helping your team to stay on track and deliver a product that’s just what the clients is looking for — without going back to the drawing board after development is complete.

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Always Use Communication Best Practices

Anytime you are collaborating, it’s vital to communicate effectively, using best practices such as:

  • Setting and managing expectations.
  • Repeating clients’ instructions or submitting written summaries to make sure you understand them correctly.
  • Leveraging technology to make communication easier. Collaboration solutions let all stakeholders monitor the project’s progress and provide their input in an organized manner — rather than flooding everyone’s inboxes with email.

The workflow solution you develop will directly reflect your understanding of your client, their operation, and their goals. Communicating effectively with your client, from start to finish, will facilitate a smoother development process and help you deliver a workflow application that’s perfectly suited to your customer. 

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