Challenging your clients is good for them

In any project we undertake, whether it be a content managed website or a complex business system we like to challenge our clients as to what they want versus what they actually need. But does this approach actually benefit them? We certainly thinks it does.


One way to approach challenging the client is in an on-site workshop. This sounds like a bunch of people in a room cutting and sticking things together but is actually a very useful exercise. There are a number of advantages to undertaking the workshop on-site.

  • The client will be on home territory and therefore should be more comfortable in providing answers to the probing questions.
  • It also means that all the stakeholders in the system should be able to get involved thus providing valuable information / feedback but also getting vital buy in to the process rather than feeling that something is being imposed on them; this buy- in is vital to the successful implementation of any project.
  • Being on-site also enables you to get a better feel for the business, which will enable you to ask more relevant probing questions.

Petulant child syndrome

During the workshop it is often necessary to look at the business as a whole and learn what the business objectives are for the short, medium and long term. This is where the fun starts, where you need to become a petulant child and constantly ask why?, why?, why?

By doing so, you are getting the client to take a good look at their business to make sure that their outcomes are well defined. What we are also doing whilst being petulant is feeding back to the clients our experience across a multitude of sectors that work and things that don't work. Clients will find this invaluable as often they don't get this holistic third party challenging feedback unless they employ a business coach or non-executive director.

Whilst every workshop is different (as is every business) the workshops needs to have some structure and scope, otherwise it would be chaos. Whilst it can be fun, chaos isn't going to achieve the desired objectives.

Right outcomes

Over the years we have completed a wide variety of workshops with clients. This approach has enabled them to revisit their business models and what their ultimate objects. It has often meant that what is developed is actually different to what their original requirements where.

We often use analogies that ensure people don't get alienated by the environment of any discussions. This allows us to have a far more productive discussion. We often use the analogy of choosing the right vehicle for your business; although you might want an Aston Martin, the business needs a vehicle that is cost effective and has sufficient room to transport equipment. An estate car would therefore be a better fit for the business.

We recently had a client that said after the workshops were completed that if we had simply developed the solution they initially asked us to develop, it would not have worked and been a waste of time and money. We often find that clients say this after the event and it is one of the challenges we face to convince them to undertake the workshops.

This fits in well with our business ethos of making the other person more important than you.

Software Solutions = Business Solutions

I was chatting with a client last week explaining the benefits of the workshop and he realised that although we build software solutions we are actually building business solutions therefore if we don't understand the business we might as well not bother starting. This is why we know it is vital to get under our clients skin as the experience of a workshop brings out all sorts valuable insights for both us and the client.

Valuable for the client in terms of challenging their business and propositions and coming up with new ideas. Valuable for us as we have the right information to build them an effective business solution.


I am always fascinated by different types of businesses and how people run them. What has become apparent to me from my years as a business advisor and now undertaking the workshops with our clients is that if you don't have fun in business then why do it. What makes the workshops fun for me is the variety of people I meet and the knowledge that if we can get to the root of their issues and identify their needs, then we can develop a solution that helps them achieve their goals and makes a real difference.

As the old adage goes fail to plan, plan to fail!

Date: 18/11/2011


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I would like to say thank you for all the advice provided by Ayrmer Software (Charlie Collins) both with the initial setting up of the online system and with queries we have along the way. Our telephone calls and emails are always dealt with promptl...

Debbie Bennett School Business Manager
New Horizons Seaside Primary School

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