It seems that I have solved the problem of high-quality customer support and development in terms of automation.
How it usually happens
The initial situation there is usually like this. There is a client, everything has been implemented for him long ago – the wild winds of frenzied projects have faded away. There is some accompanying organization. Quite often tasks arise – minor errors, minor improvements, something of an average size, well, business problems that, perhaps, can be solved with the help of automation.
In the accompanying organization, the client is assigned a manager, a dialer. Accepts the task, runs to look for the executor. An intern is suitable for a minor mistake. For a minor revision – a coder. On the “average” – you need an analyst and a developer. But religion forbids addressing programmers with business problems.
This is where the problems begin. Each time a different special is connected, depending on the level of the task. Each time the client must explain what he has and how, starting with the connection parameters. Each time the programmer delves into the improvements and features. There are always disputes over “time for analysis” – the client has already told all this, but to another person, and the new one does not want to delve into it for free.
More complicated options
Sometimes all this fraternity is replaced by a certain “assigned specialist”. This is a programmer who roughly knows the client, his system, infrastructure, people, and can be contacted directly.
So, the attempts of clients to work with “assigned specialists” were also unsuccessful. When accompanied by a client, as a rule, there is no stable flow of tasks. And the fixed one is secretly detached, and attached to another client, or even to several. When he is suddenly needed, he is always busy.
Not to mention all the developers and analysts for whom the support has not fallen anywhere – it is much easier to make money on projects (and shit code, stupid architecture and everything that was blown by the frantic winds of implementation, then they should eat with a spoon, and with bread).
What am I?
The answer was found in my past. Well I worked as a CIO. I had a team of 4 programmers. I wrote the code, the strategy for the development of the enterprise, and constantly communicated with the owner. I was in the context of everything that was happening, I knew all the tasks, infrastructure, revision standards (he himself created them), etc.
If the client is accompanied by an external company, then, as a rule, there are no programmers or CIO. On the strength of a sysadmin. Accordingly, the mess is complete – automation also needs to be managed, it will not program itself.
So I became an external CIO for three dozen clients. I immersed myself in their business as best I could. I got to know who it worked out with – the owner, director, chief accountant, sysadmin. Studied the accounting features. I looked at all the improvements, met the markers of many former colleagues. Well, I listened to the problems of business.
And then it’s simple. I have a team – at the time of this writing, 15 people. People there are of different levels. When a client has a task, I am the first to see it, and I choose the performer – in my own way, of course. So that the problem is solved, and the person learns something. There are no problems with “understanding” – I already know everything there. There will be no shit code – I’m checking. He will definitely understand the task correctly – I’ll explain.
If there is something very complex (for example, production planning), then I design it myself, I write complex sections of the code myself, the rest is done by the programmers.
If there is a business problem, then I was lucky – I can show my own examples how a programmer differs from a developer. And to solve the client’s problem for tens of thousands instead of millions, which he considered himself obliged to spend.
I tested the scheme for two years, like everyone was imbued with it. Especially the clients. We are ready to pay more for such support than for any other. I thought for a long time if I could tell you about this – there are competitors among you. But I thought, watched and understood – no one but me needs such hemorrhoids. And I’m just for fun.
The most difficult thing is to teach or accustom the client to work the way I think is right. In a few months he will understand that this is really both better and cheaper. But the process of “conversion” is probably the most vile part of the whole accompaniment.
The first is timing. It costs X rubles to simply “do the job”. It costs 2X rubles to complete the work on time. It is not the coefficient that bothers the client, but the fact that for the first time they honestly tell him – with a more expensive period. And, surprisingly, longer.
The second is a preliminary estimate. Someone, once, for some reason, thought of calling the cost of solving a problem by a programmer in advance. I don’t know about you, but for 16 years, at most 1% of the tasks can be estimated in advance, in the sense of a qualitative assessment, and then get into this assessment. Everything else is a pitchfork on the water. So, it costs X rubles to do the job. To do the job with a preliminary estimate of 2-3X rubles. The client again pins – he is for “transparency”, “manageability” and “control”. And only now I found out that I was overpaying for it 2-3 times. Just how to find a couple of paid subscriptions in the personal account of a cellular operator.
The third is the level of staging. Clients get used to working with, sorry, dumb. Those who do not understand the problem and want a task. The thread from problem to task must be drawn either by the client himself or by a special person – the Analyst. And, alas, he also needs to be paid.
Switching to support, all clients by inertia continue to “formulate tasks”, or, God forbid, “formalize tasks” and “write technical specifications”. You have to crush a piece of paper with the technical assignment, throw it into the basket and ask, “Well, what happened?”
And fourthly – for me personally, the most interesting – after reaching a certain level of trust in the client, we can say that programmers can also solve business problems that, at first glance, are not particularly related to automation. Clients have a lot of such problems. Where to go with them, they corny do not know.
For example, 99% of enterprises have planning problems. Where to run with them? You come to the programmers – they will say “oh, a difficult topic, you need an analyst and technical specification.” You go to the cool planning guys, they will say “well, everything is clear, now we need programmers who will change your system,” and when they talk, they will not understand each other. You can also try to buy a ready-made planning solution, but you will have to sell part of the business. Well, successful implementations of such solutions, judging by the style, are written for a big discount.
Or the problem of evaluating the usefulness of people. The state is growing, but no one knows whether it needs to grow like that. Where to rush with this? If you go to HR, only those motivation systems can come up with (and then they need a programmer) and conduct some testing (and then they need a programmer). Wander into a specialized office – prepare several million for “the development of a single, holistic KPI system based on a balanced scorecard and grades.” And this is a stupid ex-fur-tree, in which the names of positions and divisions will be changed. Well, salaries from Moscow to Chelyabinsk.
Now clients have someone to discuss such problems with.
Ooh, problems in bulk.
The main one is me. I’m alone. Nobody wants to be an “outside CIO” anymore. No matter how much money you offer, programmers want to solve problems. They do not want to “decide the client”, to expand the perimeter.
All the rest follow from the main one. New clients are added for a long time, it is difficult, because I have to like it. I take a new client only in two cases: I have more people or an old client has fallen off (once it happened, they hired a programmer on my advice). I even stopped calling it a “sale” – I “open a vacancy.” And I look at the candidates.
It happens that clients run away during the “probationary period” – when they could not overcome themselves and work without deadlines, budgets, technical specifications and “I said, you do it.”
Well, the main problem.
the main problem
I call it “The Law of the Universe”. The faster and better you solve the client’s tasks, the more tasks the client has.
Everything seems to be obvious. But accompanied by the same stereotype always works – to get one task, agree on a long time, and do it quietly. The bosses are trying to force everyone to “dig up more tasks from the client,” but no one really learned how to do this.
So, the client gives one, sometimes two, maximum three tasks. The manager and programmers truly believe that this is everything. And they assign the client a certain “class” – like, there are few tasks. Parkinson’s law comes into effect, 1-2-3 tasks are solemnly spread over the agreed “as long as possible” time frame.
And the client is guided by a simple subconscious rule: I don’t give long to someone who owes me anyway. In another way: the client does not give many tasks at once. He still has tasks. He can still pay money. He still needs help.
But the “accompanying” will learn about it only after solving the previously set tasks. Moreover, having decided not just how, but normal. And they cannot solve normally, because they think that these are the last tasks of the client.
So what’s the problem? That we know the law of the Universe. There is even a special strategy, for new clients – “Shturm”. When the best specialist sits down, and very – VERY quickly solves all 3 problems voiced by the client. And we immediately get 10 tasks at once. While reading and thinking – 10 more.
And we need to digest this volume somehow. The client pool has been relatively stable for a long time. The number of employees in the team is constantly growing. Everyone is always busy. So, sorry, there is no time to kick.
And this is all – the Law of the Universe.