Advocate for the Customer

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Explain why it’s important to consider the whole organization while working with a single team.
  • Recognize the danger of taking orders without question.
  • Describe the benefits of thoroughly testing a solution.

Be on the Lookout

As a business analyst working on a project, you’re probably going to be more knowledgeable about a customer’s processes than most people outside of their organization. So you will understand better than anyone what your customer wants to accomplish. At the same time, you’ll be in close contact with the people making solutions for the project. That makes you the perfect person to advocate for the customer. As you guide both sides toward the best solution, you can step in when you see something happening that might not be in the customer’s best interest. And sometimes, the customer is their own worst enemy! In this unit we investigate some of the ways you can protect your customer from threats to their success.

Consider the Whole Organization

It’s pretty common for customers to start projects that focus on one area of their business. They do this so they can invest where they’ll get the greatest return. At the same time, they may be piloting a new product or partner to see how things go. The trouble is that it’s all too easy to treat the one unit of the business as though it’s the only one that exists. But in reality, what’s done in one project for the first team can greatly affect other teams. And the first project might impose limitations on what the second team can do in their project.

As an advocate for the customer, you must always be considering the larger organization. Be on the lookout for opportunities to bring other teams into the discussion when they’re going to be affected by the initial project. You might find that they have some common business needs, and you can plan accordingly. If you don’t, you might end up redoing a lot of work for each subsequent project. You might even need to rework what’s done for the original project.

It is definitely more challenging to manage extra participants when developing a solution. You may find that teams have conflicting requirements or priorities. If that happens, remember, it’s not possible for both to win. Someone in the customer’s organization will have to make a choice. Get a decision before moving ahead, otherwise it’s likely someone will be disappointed they weren’t put first.

When Salesforce is part of the solution, it’s especially important to consider the larger organization. That’s because there’s a good chance that Salesforce will have a product that works well with other parts of the business. It’s the whole idea behind Customer 360, and how Salesforce can be a common platform for all things related to the customer.

Dig Deeper

Once upon a time, there was a young boy watching his dad prepare a roast for a big family get together. The dad cut off each end of the roast before putting it into the pan. “Why’d you cut the ends off?” the boy asked. “Well, that’s how your grandma taught me to make a roast. Ask her why she does it.” So the boy finds grandma and asks, “Why do you cut the ends off the roast before putting it into the pan?” She says, “That’s how your great-grandmother did it, ask her!” So the boy finds his great-grandmother and asks why she cut off the ends of the roast before putting it into the pan, and she says, “Because the pan was too small.”

The boy was just being curious, but he’s actually a budding business analyst. That silly story shows the importance of asking “why?”. Because one day, you’re going to have a customer come to you and tell you that the ends of the roast must be cut off as part of their business process. The mistake is to follow their orders without question. You must be able to explain why every step in a process is important. Just taking an order is like setting a little trap for someone else to discover later. That someone might be the customer, or it might be you on the next phase of the project. So even if the customer is adamant about doing things a certain way, make them explain themselves. You need to know the “why” and to be sure there isn’t any danger lurking behind the request.

When it’s time to start developing solutions to meet the business requirements, make the effort to investigate different ways to solve a given problem. Often there’s more than one viable solution, each with their own pros and cons. You might need to post questions to community forums, or ask local user groups. Whatever you do, don’t develop solutions in a vacuum. Bring your customer a choice of solutions so you can discuss which one will best suit their needs. Going beyond what works to what’s best is the real mark of an advocate.

Test Like You Mean It

Another way you can play defense for your customer is to do a thorough job testing the solution before it’s released to the general public. To be a good tester you have to be creative. Don’t just test the ideal, expected path that everyone would follow in a perfect world. Try to break the solution, find the tiny fissures, the edge cases that can trip up a normal user.

It’s often hard to think like a new user because by the time a solution is built, you know everything about it. So find volunteers who are willing to try the solution without any guidance, and just watch what they do. Anything you see them struggle with is an opportunity to improve the solution, or at the very least plan for it during training.

At the same time you’re testing new functionality, make sure to test existing related functionality that should not have changed. When systems are interconnected, pulling on one string might move something else out of place. Taking the time to verify that nothing related has broken is the responsible thing to do. Such thorough testing helps build your customers confidence in you to provide a solid solution.

As the customer’s best advocate, not only can you protect them from bugs, but you can protect them from themselves by questioning mysterious processes and helping teams work together from the start of the project.

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