How to build the confidence of clients and to make the customer succeed ?

Position Paper for "Workshop on Experience Exchange"

Jürgen Ahting
Lornsenstr. 72 - D-25451 Quickborn-Heide, Germany
Phone: +49 4106 761077


Since 1984 I am working as a programmer, project manager, product architect and business consultant. I have managed projects with budgets of several Million Euro. These projects were of course not done according to the XP practices but at one client they had developed some "strange" practices similar to XP and even forced us to adopt some of them.

In the following I will distinguish between the client (company) funding a software development project and the customer role in a XP- team.

My main interest lies in the area of interaction with the customer, i.e. making him succeed and finding efficient ways to get clients to pay for projects done the XP way. While I am quite convinced that XP is an exceptionally good way of implementing software systems, I have some reservations about arriving at a good system architecture this way.

My development experience

Regrettably I have not yet done any real XP project, but my personal experiences concerning (near-) XP practices (even if they were not called XP at that time) are, in decreasing order of intensity: Additionally we did efficiently:

Statement of position

One of the central features of XP is the clear specification of the interface between developers and clients with the developer on the technological side and the client on the business side. This puts a (too ?) big burden on the customer role in the XP team.

The success of a XP project depends on the capabilities of the customer and the confidence the client gets in the team at least as much as on anything else. Clients usually also look for somebody helping with the business decisions. The biggest fear of several of my clients was:

"Our software contractor will deliver a software as we want it, not as we need it !"

The practices of PlanningGame and OnsiteCustomer make the XP process quite transparent to the client. Thus he can get the confidence that the XP team is doing its best. Unfortunately clients need confidence that the XP team is doing the best compared to other processes and other possible contractors, especially in the beginning.

The confidence of the client also depends quite a lot on the success of the planning game and the tracking, i.e. whether the committed stories are delivered to schedule. This implies that the velocity of the team should not be very volatile.

I would like to defend the following statements:

I would like to pose the following problems:

I would like to make the following suggestion concerning the team velocity:

©Jürgen Ahting 2001