Jun 22, 2019

Michael Grebennikov

understand client

Digital Strategy, Expert View

Understanding client needs

First step to successful technology partnership

Why understanding the client’s business is important

Customer and client understanding is important for every B2C and B2B company regardless of its domain.

For a digital technology company, understanding the client’s needs and business specifics is essential. Every delivered system or service, whether you work on web development or cloud migration or provide digital consulting services, impacts the company’s operations with the goal to enhance processes, drive innovation and initiate changes that offer business growth in the future. Therefore, technology solution providers should have a very clear understanding of the industry, business and environment they are dealing with.

4 steps to understand your client

At the very first steps of collaboration, we make in-depth research of the company – its online presence, publications and other mass media coverage, business and social achievements.

Then, we ask our clients quite a few questions to understand how their business processes work, what problems they confront, what expectations and objectives they set. Additionally, we perform a deep market and industry analysis to better learn the environment they are in at this point or plan to be in the future.

In practice, it’s a 4-step process that enables us to get a good understanding of the client’s needs and business.

1. Problems and expectations

First of all, we need to know what exactly makes a client search for our help. Finding out the client’s problem gives us the first grasp of the solution we will be working on.

A business may have a poorly working online ordering system, be unable to retain customers on mobile, not know how to get the benefits from enterprise data, lose money and time on an outdated paper-based process, etc. Once we know what areas can be improved, we can fill in these gaps with perfectly effective technology solutions.

Additionally, we are trying to find out what expectations a client has from future collaboration. It can be something as clear and measurable as a certain technical KPI, such as increasing system performance by 100%. Or a more abstract idea, like boosting customer engagement by integrating one of the common types of web portals into the business process or improving usability or an existing system.

At Digiteum, we’ve started out technology partnership with Oxford University Press (OUP) from solving a problem. Dictionary department had a working, though a challenging and costly process of converting dictionaries. It could take up to 3 months and custom teams with unique language knowledge to make one online dictionary. Moreover, it often resulted with up to 20% data loss at the output. Our task was to solve all these problems. Digiteum was expected to find and build the technology solution to increase the conversion speed in times, optimize the process and improve the quality to close to 100%.

2. Goals

At this stage, we study the company’s goals. It’s very important to consider what objectives the company pursues. In most cases, a client doesn’t need a digital system for the sake of having it, but rather to achieve any target – increased conversions, saved cost, etc.

Sometimes, a company may come up with an idea rather than an existing problem. In this case, we help the company shape it and set up the goals.

Eventually, these goals will help put together the requirements for the new digital project.

One of our recent projects – two wellness apps for yoga instructors and students – started with an idea. The idea was to connect instructors with students on a mobile platform just like Uber connects drivers and passengers. The goal was to make the system that would be both simple to use and versatile enough for a wide range of functions and features. 

3. Business specifics

In order to understand the client’s business, we need to know its specifics. At Digiteum, we devote time and effort to learn how the processes work, who operates them, what tools and infrastructure the company is using, what opportunities the company has in terms of technology development, and importantly, what budget can allocate.

All this information allows us to build up a more complete picture of the company’s process and objectives, understand the capacity for improvement and innovation, carefully select technology stack and methodology, and eventually, build a relevant digital system for this company.

Here’s a simple example. One of the big Digiteum clients finds process optimization and innovation as “experiments” and carefully considers the risks associated with such projects. Therefore, Digiteum usually offers small affordable MVP projects that quickly demonstrate the practicality of an idea and thus assure the client the full-scale project is viable and worth the investment.

4. Industry specifics.

No business exists in isolation. This is why as a part of complex business analytics, we perform market and industry analysis to study the client’s business environment and better understand the ecosystem the company operates in.

As technology and business experts, we need to know what systems and tools are used in a particular industry, what technologies and approaches push certain domains forward (e.g. to leverage modern cloud services, big data solutions, microservices advantages) and how different business strategies shape the market.

Our technology partnership with Printique* is a relevant case. Since our .NET dedicated team started working on the projects 12 years ago, the photo lab has scaled up its online presence to new apps and web products and introduced dozens of new photo printing services. This strategic enhancement was based on a deep understanding of the market trends, the lab’s customers’ needs and industry development trajectory.

Are you looking for a reliable IT vendor? Or ready for a forward-looking technology partnership? Drop us a line to talk about your needs.

Tips for better business understanding

In my experience, you can find out as much about a client as the client is ready to share, if you ask the right questions and listen attentively. Here’re some tips to better understand what a client is saying, literally.

  • Make your homework. Get to know the company as much as possible. This will help find the relevant questions to ask.
  • Ask relevant questions. In fact, asking the right questions is a true way to get the necessary information. Often, it requires providing options, choices, giving examples so that to lure the valuable data on a problem, idea or technical specifications from your client.
  • Be an active listener. It’s important to be an active listener able to fully focus on the conversation. Good listening implies you can always confirm understanding.
  • Show respect. Whatever stage the business is at – startup, mature enterprise, serious reconstruction –  it’s crucial to show adequate respect to your client’s business, achievements and decisions and be able to openly appreciate your client’s success.
  • Get to know a person you are talking to better. Always remember that you are dealing with people, and people have their own interests, values and passions. Establishing a good rapport with your clients is essential. It encourages them to share and be franker. Thus, knowing your people better, you get to know more about their business too.

What to begin with

We’ve already learned what information about the client’s business and needs is important to know and how to ensure better understanding. Here’s the list of the most common questions we typically discuss at the first steps of collaboration regardless of the company’s size, industry or structure.

  • Why do you need a certain digital service or product?
  • Do you need to develop a digital product strategy?
  • What are your goal and project objective?
  • Do you expect to change requirements of a project?
  • Who’s going to use the new product or service, both as a customer or as the company’s employees?
  • Where does the data for the system or service come from?
  • What type of data we will be dealing with?
  • What other systems should be integrated with your new product or service?
  • What part of the business infrastructure the new system or service will be? Is it the core service, supporting instrument for employees or customers, marketing tool, etc.?

After getting the data, it’s also wise to study what similar challenges are typically solved in the given industry and other industries.

This list helps us create the initial vision of what a client needs and expects from our services.

Knowing the client’s business turns a vendor into a technology partner

The benefits of understanding the client’s needs and business go far beyond a successfully delivered digital system or client satisfaction. In fact, a knowledgeable technology provider able to deeply immerse into the client’s industry has all the chances to turn into a long-term technology partner.

In case you are not only successful in understanding the client’s needs, but also in delivering on your promises, the client doesn’t search for alternative technology providers and fully relies on the IT services from one credible company.

As a result, this type of partnership often leads to even better outcomes. For a technology partner knows exactly and even can anticipate what the client needs in terms of the current market situation, client’s capabilities and goals and industry trends.

*Formerly AdoramaPix