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Giving the customers what they want

I do not believe that I am an elitist, but at the same time, I wonder about that phrase. To me, it implies an abdication of responsibility. Which is better: to give the customer what he asks for or to solve the real problem?

Here is what I mean. Occasionally, someone asks me for some tool/gadget/software program that strikes me as not really addressing the problem. This can be for any number of reasons; the customer has an immediate pain point and wants to address the specific requirement, the customer is already fixated on the technology and want that solution, the customer has been told that the answer is SOAP (and what was the question?).

As a professional, that puts me in a dilemma: either I end up arguing with the customer or I hold my nose and give him what he so plainly wants even if I think that it is not the right answer. Given my temperament, it means that I usually end up contradicting the client and thereby losing the deal.

Today I ended up doing that (I think, it may be too early to tell the final outcome). I was confronted with questions about scale, P2P etc. for a project for which I believe the real issues had nothing to do with scale, P2P or whatever technology; but were really about the business context that the solution was planned for.

Personally, I think that if you are going to hire someone for their experience and judgement, you should be prepared to listen to their advice. This is like going to the doctor and demanding that they prescribe you some drug that you had heard of; what you should ideally be doing is presenting them with your symptoms and trusting their judgement. If you don't trust the doctor, go somewhere else (or go to medical school).

On the other hand, he who pays the piper calls the tune. And it's a big mistake to be too far ahead of the piper.

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