What They Need, Not What They Want: How Efficient Communication Drives Positive Relationships in Project Management


Efficient communication across the business, both externally and internally, can be the key to driving a successful project, writes Jostein Aksnes, CEO and co-founder of Seven Peaks.

The evolution of IT services: Communication, collaboration, and agile methodology

For a long time, clients managed developers on digital product projects as if they were commodities. Clients would simply instruct developers to carry out tasks as they saw fit. The selection criteria were straightforward: skill set and cost.

However, in recent years, there has been a significant shift toward not just building code but also collaborating on design solutions from a user experience (UX) perspective. This transition has led developers to work more closely with clients to identify requirements, perform user testing, and guide clients in building products through solution architecture and implementation.

As a result, we’ve witnessed a transformation from mere engineering resources to digital consultants and drivers of digital transformation. Today, effective two-way communication is at the heart of a successful working relationship. A study by Ark Group found that while 95 percent of CEOs believe effective communication is crucial in any area, only 22 percent felt it was being delivered.

Navigating communication challenges

Regardless of the approach taken, communication in this field can be fraught with challenges, particularly when dealing with cultural differences. In Southeast Asia, open, honest, and direct communication can sometimes lead to difficulties. For example, correcting or disputing an older client or manager is considered disrespectful, which can cause unfavorable consequences. Striking a delicate balance between expressing necessary information and maintaining respect is crucial, whether in internal or external communication.

Product discovery

Focusing on client needs, not wants

Companies must remember that their primary goal is to solve a specific problem for their clients. The solution may involve a combination of technology and other strategies. It’s essential to avoid introducing new buzzwords or technology just because they are trendy or because the client wants them. Instead, effective communication involves guiding clients toward what they need rather than what they want. This approach can be challenging and may lead to disagreements, but by providing efficient advice and continually steering them in the right direction, clients will eventually follow your lead.

The importance of product discovery and incremental development in setting and meeting expectations

To ensure a smooth project, one of the first tasks a team should undertake is product discovery. This process helps the team understand the client’s business objectives and pain points. Then, the team can break the solution down into smaller projects and complete them incrementally. This approach enables teams to solve individual problems more quickly while the overall product takes shape gradually. The focus remains on building what the client needs rather than what they want, ensuring each smaller project is essential.

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Agile methodology: a tool for effective communication and collaboration

The agile methodology, known for its emphasis on simplicity, regular reflection, and continuous adjustments, fosters efficiency in projects. It encourages close collaboration between clients and developers, with face-to-face communication being the most effective. It also includes regular meetings where critical points are discussed, tasks are prioritized, and team members are nudged to be flexible and precise.

The agile approach facilitates quick sprint reviews and concise retrospective assessments, thanks to its emphasis on effective communication. These assessments help determine the innovations with the most significant project impact. Agile’s adaptability allows for changes in planning without disruption, meaning projects can be delivered within weeks or months. This process’s success relies heavily on frequent interactions with clients to review progress and gather feedback, a step that is vital for delivering value to the business.

The benefits of powerful organization and communication

Effective organization and communication can also have a significant positive impact on employee morale. A recent report by McKinsey revealed that companies employing efficient internal communication policies, which foster relationships and growth, can boost productivity by up to 25 percent.

Adopting this approach paves the way for creativity, innovation, and motivation within the team. A content and energized team is more likely to work efficiently and effectively. This becomes especially crucial in the era of remote work, where employees often operate in isolation. Frequent communication helps maintain their focus and engagement.

Stating that “good communication leads to successful projects” might seem obvious. However, comprehending the underlying reasons for this truth and pinpointing the specific areas where targeted efforts can yield success can make the difference between a satisfactory outcome and an exceptional one.

Jostein Aksnes is the CEO and co-founder of Seven Peaks Software.

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