The guts to say “No”

Take one big customer who wants to have solution on an new, soon to be deployed, ECM platform.

Add some requirements to have a community website, web 2.0 as much as it can get, with a “wow” design (think flash all around), targeted to executive level (think huge multinational company)…

Picture you as the solution provider which aims to please this customer to whom it already provided some other solutions.

Sit down, and swallow the mission: do this in 1 month from moment zero to go-live, without having any well defined requirements (“be extremely friendly, web 2.0 with blogs, social networks wikis, personal pages, and work also great on mobiles”).

You have the technical skills. You can do it.. but probably not so fast (4 weeks to go live means actually about 2 weeks of working and 2 deploying and waiting for others). And there is this customer which whants a “wow!”. And the users are executives.

Will you say ‘Yes, bring it on!’?

Or will you say to the customer “No thanks, not like this”?

I said No.

Our mission as IT solution providers

We (“consultants”, “integrators”…) always like to say that we work close to our customers and that we treat them as partners. We say we provide quality services to them so they can fulfill their business activities better.

And is nice, and is cool when you feel you always come to the “rescue” and give them “solutions”. We solve their problems, and this makes us feel good (and it pays the bill :)).

And sometimes the customer wants something difficult. You beef up and do it. It’s not always easy (actually, usually it never is) but you do it (heck, is a job… is not supposed to be bells and whistles all the time).

And sometimes the requirement is really difficult. You assess the risks and decide to do it or not. Usually in IT you do it (at least this is my way of working, but i see it in many other IT providers as well).

Is it good to say no? Are you supposed to say this so bluntly after just a couple of meetings?

Will the customer disappointment hurt you too much?

I think that having the courage to say No in such an early stage is a major step in actually building customer confidence in you. It shows you aim to be a reliable partner, not a “yes person”.

On the other hand, it can be interpreted as a weakness and you can never combat it in any way other than by doing a lot of other succesfull solutions for that customer.

Did you ever said “No”? (i mean an important “No”)


3 thoughts on “The guts to say “No”

  1. I spent most of my career as a victim (uh I mean customer) of consultants. Now that I am one – this is one topic I have a particular passion about. I had developed a habit early on to always as the integrator “Are we doing everything right?” to give them the chance to say no. If they ever told me we were right on track in every respect – I started looking for a new consultant.

    Just say no. You’ll sleep better.

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