A couple of weeks ago, John Roth posted a link to Martin Fowler's article on Customer Affinity
on the XP yahoo groups list.
I just like being reminded that we shouldn't be thinking "those awful customers want something else done now! Can you believe it?" I think we have those thoughts far too often. I know I used to.
I used to be the type who would actively try to avoid conversations with the customer - get some manager to do it. I've since stopped that approach, but every once in a while I find myself thinking "well that's a stupid idea." In the past, I'd either just do it to get it over with, or tell someone else to tell the customer it was a stupid idea (in more diplomatic terms, of course).
Now, I find it much more helpful and rewarding to discuss (without the use of a proxy) the objectives they are trying to reach with the "stupid idea." I've found a lot of times, the ideas aren't that stupid. Other times, I can suggest a different approach that would solve the problem in a more meaningful way. Still others, I've talked myself out of good paying work that didn't need to be done because of an unfounded fear of a potential problem.
I don't think you can develop good software without understanding the goals of the customer for whom you are writing it. And how can you understand the goals without having that "customer affinity?"
It's a pity so many waste so much time developing software that is essentially useless. I always smile when I hear the "go get this done and come back in 6 months with the finished product" stories. That used to be me, and I mostly always came back with the wrong product.
I like my newer approach much better, and I like to be reminded from time to time about it. That's what this article did for me, and it's definitely worth a read.
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