Stoneseed IT
Stoneseed IT
Slide One - only button


Read and subscribe to Stoneseed's Latest Blogs

Slide One - only button


Read and subscribe to Stoneseed's Latest Blogs

A Woolly Brief Doesn't Mean You Should Fleece Your Client


The 7 rules of “clientside” operation that will make your client love you

This is the story of how I saved a client over £32k on an IT project contract someone else won. Intrigued?

Our client, a large nationwide operation with sites across the UK and some “exciting challenges” within their IT infrastructure, had engaged us in a technical advisory capacity – initially tender evaluation and then, a few months later, technical design for a new virtualised desktop environment. What happened in between our two periods of involvement is a lesson in why truly understanding a client’s motive for embarking upon an IT project is so crucial.

The brief was fairly open, the client knew what they wanted to achieve from their business case perspective and they had a strict budget but they didn't know what technology was available. That's probably true of 80% of IT briefs and it's where a vendor has a choice to make.

Do you take advantage of your client's dependency on your knowledge and add in unnecessary software, procedures, time, hardware and costs ... or do you take them by the hand and guide them with integrity to the best solution for them?

Distilled to its very essence, the story I’m about to tell you can be summed up with the following 7 Rules of “Clientside” Operation that will make your client love you.

  1. Understand your client's requirement.
  2. No ... Stop and really understand your client's requirement. Be clear on "the why".
  3. Start with a blank sheet and no preconceptions but advise based on your unique experience and up-to-date knowledge of available solutions.
  4. Use your experience to ensure the project hits the ground running without stalling.
  5. Be steadfast in your approach but flexible and open.
  6. Never stop listening to your client, never fail to communicate honestly.
  7. Governance that is fair and from the point of view of the client is the only way to ensure project success by their measure and for all stakeholders to win. Governance should be strict and project goals should be measurable.

In the instance I’m referring to here, beyond initial tender evaluation, we had little input in vendor selection. The client opted to award the contract to a provider who, to be fair had provided the marginally better proposal although we raised concerns over its complexity, based on our deep understanding of the client’s situation.

Some months later, we were asked to Project Manage it and provide engineering resource to deliver the project in conjunction with the winning vendor's technicians. What we discovered was a great example of why project management and the IT multisourcing model work best engaged "from end to end", in other words from tender evaluation, through selection and into project delivery and governance.

The project had stalled.

The client was unsure of the exact technology choice they should make - that's not their job - they know their business and you know yours ... it's your job to marry the two. In this case, the client was unfamiliar with the products available on the market which, of course, is why they come to you.

The vendor hadn’t taken the time to understand the existing client infrastructure or the pressures and environment they were working in, they hadn't got to grips with those exciting challenges so how could they expect to tackle them?

Remember, the client had a limited budget so getting it right first time was a key requirement but the winning vendor had proposed a pilot exercise to evaluate two available types of technology. Of course, this would have doubled costs for that phase of the project. The client's tight budget had been pre-approved, there was no room for re-calculating and overspending was not an option. The client was operating in a business landscape where key contracts were being lost and staff numbers were being cut.

The relationship had soured somewhat.

Understanding the client's business case - "the why" is always more important than the solution that you bring to achieve it - "the how".

Here, the client's driving force was to ease and centralise administrative costs and reduce the burden of support. With limited IT resources and limited IT skillsets, a budget that was finite and urgent business case drivers the client was dependent on the vendor. Go back to that question I posed earlier - is this the time to fleece the client or super service them during a difficult period so that they love you and come back to you when the business landscape improves.

A no-brainer - you'd think. Thing is, 99.9% of the time, overcharging for an IT project is not a deliberate attempt to fleece your client it’s just that you’ve not totally understood their needs. Perception is reality though and if you look like the type of vendor who overcharges they won’t be back with more business in the future.

The vendor here was charging £850 per day for every pre-sales/design/workshop meeting that took place to which they could send up to 3 or 4 people. I’m sure that they honestly believed that they were necessary.

No progress had been made for months and costs were mounting.

Stoneseed were brought in to govern the project and the vendor and assist with technology choices and get the venture moving again.

First thing we did was understand the existing internal IT, we gathered client requirements and re-established relations with the vendor. Due to our expertise and knowledge of delivering similar technical designs and projects, the vendor was willing to make compromises to existing commercial liabilities - they could see a way of getting things moving and ultimately making more money than they would by being difficult!

We went back to the design stage but this time let the requirements pick the technology. Had the vendor taken the time to understand and work with the client at the outset these solutions would have been as evident to them as they were to us.

We were able to build one pilot and in such a way that it was ready to expand straight into production, saving the client considerable time and money.

We achieved a significant reduction in the number of quoted professional services days, totalling just over a fortnight’s worth in fact and at £850 per day that made an initial saving of around £12k!

But that was a drop in the ocean compared with what was achieved next.

We then worked in conjunction with the vendor, by now representing the client, to achieve a signed off scope of works and a high level detailed design. Up to this point, the vendor had been requesting orders without an agreed set of deliverables that the client could measure success against. We governed the vendor to make sure the client was protected and got value for money.

Whilst providing commercial and technical governance of the vendor design we also challenged Professional Services costs for delivery timescales, established a proper plan for service and support with the vendor (this had not even been considered!!) and advised the client on requirements for effective testing, handover and training.

We successfully challenged product choices, for example, removing unnecessary expensive software (again, the vendor had not understood the client’s operating circumstance and their ability to support the project once delivered).

This cut £32,500 from a proposed cost of £100k – a 33% saving!

At this point, it's fair to say that the client was impressed and had saved enough money to appoint one of our Project Managers to deliver the rollout, which included new PCs across multiple sites, UAT and training. So understanding your client’s requirements can mean more work for you. Who knew!?

The who, what and how that you bring can never succeed unless you first understand your clients “why”.

Contact us to learn more about how Stoneseed's IT Advisory Services can help you to ensure best value and align IT to business goals.

Find out more about Service Delivery Assessments from Stoneseed
“Making Tax Easy” – Plans Like This Call For Multi...
In the Search For Successful Project Outcomes - Co...

By accepting you will be accessing a service provided by a third-party external to

Latest Blog Posts

October 2021
I smiled this week as a colleague said, “Failing to plan is planning to fail” and then grimaced at delivering a cliché that makes us both cringe. Like most clichéd, ...

Straight Talk on Project Management

Download your free eBook

Download Now

Got a Question?