Customer solutions or requirements?

The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematical or experimental skill.”
Albert Einstein
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If you’ve ever been a solutions integrator or an implementing vendor, have you ever noticed that the more technically proficient your customer is, the more likely you are to receive their specifications as “required solutions” rather than requirements?

There are three interesting perspectives on this observation:

  1. As the client, only they can deeply understand their situation and what problems they need to solve (unless you, the SI/vendor, have worked with them on many projects before and know their organisation intimately – which is a desirable position to be in to add value for them of course). As per Einstein’s quote above, I try to encourage the customer to exert all of their brainpower on defining the problem rather than generating a solution
  2. The client has engaged you to provide the optimal solution based on requirements. Assuming you know the products better than the client does, your approach to the solution should be more advanced than theirs to any given requirement. Your clients sometimes come up with fantastic lateral ideas, so it’s important to listen to how they would approach the problem, but ultimately it should be your decision because you have the accountability to deliver the best solution possible
  3. Definition of the problem rather than the solution probably saved England during World War II. Check out “the radar analogy” in this earlier post
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