“Thank you for sending us your specs. Would you mind if we ignored them for a while, though?”

Not the most polite response to a customer inquiry, I know. And we don’t actually say that.

It’s not that we are not interested in your specs. Rather, we are really, really curious about what led you to write them.

Let’s start at the beginning.

Every software project starts because someone is hurting.

Alternatively, it starts because someone is hungry. Either way, it’s a place of discomfort.

When we receive the specs, you have taken several steps to resolve that. You have had meetings, scribbled on the whiteboard, and decided to do something.

Great! Let’s do something!

Since you know your business inside out, you put your action plan on paper. You took all the good ideas from your brainstorming sessions and put them together.

The specs grew and grew.

That’s natural. Paper lets anything go. There are no obstacles. Everything is feasible.

On paper, ideas evolve on their own.

And therein lies the danger.

By the time we read your specs, we see the Nth generation of your original idea. What was once a seed is now a plant, intriguing yet a little confusing - at least to a newcomer.

Naturally, we could take your specs and write some code. Many agencies do. After all, who are we to argue with your idea?

We see it differently.

We won’t argue that your problem doesn’t exist, far from it. You are the expert on your business.

Indeed, we want to understand the very nature of your problem and your vision for the future. And so we have to go back to its roots.

By asking questions.

Oh yes, those pesky questions. Why? Why now? We can be annoying sometimes, although we try not to.

We take your specs under consideration but do not limit our inquiry to them. If we did, we would never get any closer to their roots.

The specs must be undone, if only temporarily.

Their unraveling might feel a little uncomfortable. Yet we persist. The grand prize is revealed at the end, making the process worthwhile.

We now understand how you arrived at your conclusions. We see your challenges in their context and can put your specs on a map of possible outcomes.

It might very well be that you nailed it the 1st time.

Congratulations! Now we get to work with confidence that we are writing code that matters.

It could also be that you missed an opportunity or two or misunderstood something about the technology you thought would help you.

That happens.

Just as you are the expert on your business, we are experts on automations.

We have seen many, many specs and lived through a multitude of projects. Would you like to hear a story or two?

Ideas are cheap. Making them happen is expensive. Therefore, you save a ton by ensuring your first steps are well-advised.

We are here to help you win.

How do we get you there?

By working from the inside out.

Once we understand the challenges you face and the opportunities that are open to you, we can deploy our expertise and show you the map.

You will see your specs on the map. Whether or not they are aligned with your objectives will now be clear to you.

What else might be on the map?

We have worked our way in, and now we can head out again.

Only this time, we may have found two or three other roads, two or three different bets you can make.

The best part? We are not talking about some long and arduous process. Most projects need only a week or two to get the roadmap established.

Each road will have its risks and benefits. Some will be shorter, with fewer risks along the way and a smaller payoff at the end. Others will be more ambitious.

You will weigh the pros and cons and make your decision. An informed decision.

And then, only then, we can start writing code. And it will matter.

photo credit: Willow Findlay