Categories of Customers

What type of customers do you work with ? In my years of working, I’ve generally found customers to fall into 3 broad groups:

Passively Ignorant
They don’t know what’s going on, but are willing to be told what to do and will be educated.
Actively Ignorant
They don’t know what’s going on, and aren’t really interested in the project, or learning more about it.
Aggressively Ignorant
They don’t know what’s going on, but regardless of that are not going to be educated and will continually argue and disagree with solutions to their problems.

I use the term ‘ignorant’ in the “unaware or uninformed” sense, not in a derogatory sense. I’m ignorant of US Law. That doesn’t make me stupid, and if I had the desire I could learn US Law. I’m sure you all understand.
What does the type of customer change in the risk profile of your project ? Does it make it harder ? Does it change your success criteria ? Do you ever notice ?
Can you change the customer ? Is that part of the project ? Or a pre-requisite ? Can this categorisation be applied to your co-workers ?
Hmmm, so much to think about. So little time.

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One thought on “Categories of Customers

  1. I think I’ve seen this list before – I use it myself. I also find myself grouping coworkers (usually customer staff) into categories such as:
    Ideas Woman/Man
    Is full of ideas about how the project should be done, but doesn’t get involved in actually doing any real work. Telltale sign: these people usually have a title with the word “Architect” in it somewhere.
    Seagull (typically management)
    Flies in, shits all over everything, flies out again.
    Faffer
    See http://www.google.com/search?q=cache:ao_LbRTUrooJ:www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/1514/faff.html&hl=en for a far more complete definition than I’d be able to give here!
    Loose Cannon
    A bit like the Ideas Woman/Man, except that they have no ideas up front but plenty of criticism when the shit hits the fan.
    Preschooler
    Chucks their toys whenever things don’t go their way.
    Manic Depressive
    Don’t believe anything will ever go right, period. Like to stack the odds in their favour by creating self-fulfilling prophesies and spouting them loudly to anyone who will listen. eg. “This system will never work. The requirements are all wrong. The technology is immature. The team doesn’t have the necessary technical skill.” etc. etc. Telltale sign: listened to The Cure as a youngster.
    Graduate
    Tries to apply everything they ever learnt in University to the most trivial of problems, but doesn’t grasp some fundamental basics. eg. doesn’t understand why their suggestion to switch from C++ to Java during User Acceptance Testing is met with derisive laughter (this is not a made up example!). With careful mentoring, a graduate will often evolve into a preschooler.
    Moron
    Just plain dumb. Can be a worthwhile addition to a team for entertainment purposes however.
    Social Retard
    I’m sure everyone can think of an example of one of these – IT seems to have been blessed with more than a fair share! 😉
    Politician
    Runs around telling management just how good they are, but actually knows nothing about anything (and contribute about the same amount). For some reason Big 5, errr, Big 4 consulting firms seem to attract an unusually large number of these types of people. Thankfully they usually metamorphose into a seagull pretty quickly, so at least you don’t have to deal with them on a day-to-day basis for long.
    Placeholder
    Only sticking around long enough to get another job or retire. In most aspects they’re the same as a faffer (in fact it can be hard to differentiate them initially).
    etc. etc.

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