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Insights / Blog / Business

9 Things you shouldn’t tell your digital service provider

February 02, 2016
Alain VeuveAlain VeuveManaging Director, AOE Switzerland

Whenever I speak with industry colleagues, we occasionally discuss statements from potential customers that bring smiles to our faces. Time for a small collection with appropriate comments.

“We want to become the Amazon for [xyz]”

A true classic. Even board members of large corporations can’t leave well enough alone. In which case it sounds something like this: “We would like to be the Amazon of the nuts- and bolts industry within three years.” You can consider “nuts and bolts” as a placeholder that can be replaced by any given term.

The sentence sounds cool, but, after “Think Big”, it also reveals that those who make such statements have failed to understand two fundamental issues: A) Amazon needed 18 years to become the company it is today. It’s a huge bet on the idea of achieving complete control over the entire value creation chain sooner or later – if one is just large enough. The entire value creation chain also means production, in case this isn’t clear. And B) There already is an Amazon for the nuts- and bolts industry – its name is Amazon.

“Our customers don’t shop online”

“The” online customer doesn’t exist and there are very few customers who shop exclusively offline. Many people don’t shop online in selected industries, but they use the Internet for research purposes to help them in making their purchasing decisions. I’ve already written a longer article on the topic.

“It’s supposed to look like Apple”

You don’t hear that one too much anymore – though I’ve come across it in workshops with large companies during the past year. Apple has its own signature design style, whereby I don’t want “design” to be reduced solely to its visual aspects. If all you do is copy Apple, then you will just look a little bit like Apple. But that doesn’t mean you’re Apple. A friend commented to me last week: “Have you seen the new UBS branch offices? They look like small Apple Stores. How embarrassing.”

Contrary to what you might think, this isn’t a “Quick Win”, but rather a “Quick Fail”. Have the courage (and budget) to create your very own handwriting for your company. That’s something that will pay off in the long run.

“The search feature should simply be just like Google”

The most-often quoted statement, without a doubt. The problem: It shows that you either don’t understand Google Search or simply haven’t got a clue about software engineering. Every service provider will think, “I hope you also have Google’s budget.” Which isn’t the case, of course. Skip this one, without replacement. And describe search in simple user stories.

“Sure we’ll do it the Agile way, but for a fixed price”

This one has come up just in the last three years and it shows that “Agile” as a buzzword has arrived, but that you don’t really want to commit to the concept. But, extraordinary software companies work according to Agile principles, usually without a fixed price. I can only warn you to combine Agile and Waterfall at will. The result is what I call “Agile Fail”. Not a pretty sight.

“The costs are secondary to us. It’s primarily about the skills”

The pattern of this sentence is not quite as clear. I’ve heard it so often and in many companies it really wasn’t about the costs. I do those companies an injustice here. Nevertheless, I sit up and take notice when I read it. Why? When I find a detailed cost estimate in the same document with guarantees and commitments, perhaps even required in a predefined (arduous) XLS price structure, I know this statement is simply a platitude. More than anything it is about the price here. I don’t have a problem with that – if you merely state the fact as such.

“We’ll send the RFP to 10 providers”

The killer per se. The good agency will decline, the lesser agencies will think, “Ok, a challenge.” Is that what you want? Not really. So, do your homework and work out a shortlist. Use a request for information, if necessary; this minimizes the effort for you and the service provider considerably and provides you with a good first exclusion round.

“When the first small project is running smoothly, we'll have a lot of large projects for you”

I’ve been in the business for nearly 20 years now. And I’ve never experienced, even once, that I could create serious revenue with a company with which I at first carried out small (low-priced), successful projects. Today, I decline immediately when I hear statements such as this one.

“All we need is a standard shop”

I hear this one in the industry quite a lot. Let me state very clearly: There is no such thing as a standard shop. Of course you can set up something for 5,000 Euros that runs after a fashion. But a fully functional shop, that’s supposed to create noteworthy turnover for your company, costs a minimum of 150K Euros. And, as a rule, another 150K on top for promotions. As always there are exceptions to the rule. But don’t be fooled: Only those people who sow and tend to the young shoots will also reap.