Gina Trapani: We like to have fun...
Chris LoSacco: Yes.
Gina: ...at the Catalyst Recording studio.
[CATALYST INTRO MUSIC]
Chris: Welcome to Catalyst, the Launch by NTT Data podcast. I am Chris LoSacco, VP of Product Innovation here at Launch, and I am joined by my longtime business partner, Gina Trapani.
Chris: Hi Gina. How are you doing?
Gina: I'm doing... I'm doing great this morning.
Gina: It's a... Yeah. You know, it's September. It's supposed to be, like, cool and crisp outside in New York City.
Chris: It's definitely not.
Gina: It's not. And I completely overdressed. And then I stepped out of my house and saw all my neighbors in, like, shorts and t-shirts and was like, I made a mistake.
Chris: This is the thing. It's not, and it's not pleasant when you're...
Gina: It's not.
Chris: ...I mean, not that it's really pleasant anywhere, but especially in New York City. It's like, oh. This is, you know...
Gina: It's, it's mid-September. Come on, get with it, weather.
Gina: I'm doing alright.
Chris: We're making do. (Laughs)
Gina: (Laughs) We're making do, we're making do.
Chris: Here's the conversation I want to have with you today.
Chris: Let me set a little background. We're having a physical thing built in the real world.
Gina: Oh, my God.
Gina: With, like, stone and wood and cement and...
Chris: Actual material.
Chris: It's kind of an amazing thing for... For software people.
Chris: To see physical stuff being built. So we're having an art studio built for my family.
Chris: And we are working with an architect to build this studio.
Gina: So green field. Like, right now it's like, a patch of land. There's nothing on it. And now...
Gina: And your building's... Oh, I love a good green field software project.
Gina: But a physical construction project is terrifying. Tell me about this.
Chris: It's terrifying. It's exciting. It's...
Gina: Costly. (Laughs)
Chris: It is. It's all over the place. It is costly. That's a whole other podcast.
Chris: I've had this moment... So we've been, we've been at this for several months, me and my wife. And there have been so many times where we have been like, you know, what are we doing? (Laughs) And then I have this moment where I'm like, Oh, this is... this is what our clients must feel. This is just... I'm serious.
Gina: (Laughs) You are the client. You are the client. Right.
Chris: We are the clients. And it is just like software. Because this is a domain where we don't have any expertise. Right?
Chris: We are not, we didn't grow up with architects in the house.
Chris: We didn't, you know...
Gina: General contracting, not the family business. Yeah.
Chris: Not the family business. We haven't built a thing before. We've done some home improvements.
Chris: But it's not like, you know...
Gina: Yeah, this is next level.
Chris: This is next level. This is, you're starting from... like you said, it's a blank patch of land and we're, you know, erecting something.
Chris: And so, I thought it would be interesting to have a conversation about, you know, the kinds of things that I'm realizing, and how we address them in our business.
Gina: Yes. You're the client.
Chris: Because there's just so many parallels. Yeah. And, you know, how many times do we say in our business, it comes down to setting expectations?
Chris: And that is so true, right? Because here's what, here's what I'm realizing. When you're on the client side, you don't know anything. Obviously, we have a vague sense of what we want to build, what we need it to do, you know, how my wife is going to use this space. Right? She's an artist.
Gina: You have, like, a vision.
Chris: Yeah. So she has very particular, you know, requirements.
Chris: They're project requirements.
Chris: But translating those requirements into, here's the building that's going to suit these needs, and here's how we go about getting it done - we have no idea about that.
Chris: We don't know what the stages of the process are. We don't know what questions to ask. We don't know how long each thing should take...
Gina: ...Each thing takes. Right.
Chris: It's all kind of up for interpretation.
Chris: And so, we're coming in and it's incredibly, like, helpless. It's a helpless feeling. Right? But it's also, we're putting so much trust in our architects to set our expectations, so that we know what's coming.
Chris: So that we know what's next down the, down the road.
Gina: So the architects, so... Because I know nothing about construction. So there's, you know, there's like, the general contractor and the electrician and the plumber and the drywall person.
Gina: But the architect is the first person that you're interacting with, generally? Or the person who is, like, setting the... the overarching plans?
Gina: Does that make sense? And this is the person that you're interfacing with first. It's like, laying out, okay, this is what we're going to do.
Chris: They were stop number one.
Gina: They were stop number one. Got it.
Chris: Yes. And when we came to them, we basically said, again, in broad strokes, "Here's what we want, here's what, here's what we need. Here are a few specific things that we know we want to be checking off." But then the rest was open. And we basically said to them, we're choosing you as our architects because we like your style. We had looked at previous buildings that they had designed. We, you know, we very much, like, connected with their approach to things.
Gina: Yep. This is why our clients come to us. Yep.
Chris: Exactly right. But then we were like, tell us what's next.
Gina: Right. So now, tell us what to do. Tell us what's going to happen.
Chris: Right. Right. And so, it was absolutely critical for them that they lay out...
Gina: The whole plan.
Chris: What is this path that we're going to go on together, right? And communicate about it regularly. And we've had a couple of moments... You know, it's gone for the most part very, very well. But we've had a couple of moments where we just, we got a little antsy and a little concerned, not because they were doing something wrong, but because they weren't communicating about what they were doing.
Chris: And it was not an issue for them, because they're like, oh.
Gina: "We're heads down. Getting work done."
Chris: We're heads down. This is the normal course of business, right?
Chris: "We're, you know, we're in schematic design and we're going to be moving to detailed design next." And we're like, But we didn't know that. You know?
Gina: Right. We don't know what's going on.
Chris: You haven't sent us an email in two and a half weeks. Like, what's going on?
Gina: Oh, yeah. That's a long time. Yeah.
Chris: It's a long time.
Chris: So it's the same thing with us, right? It is absolutely incumbent upon our project teams to be one step ahead, or several steps ahead, of the client. And make sure that we are setting their expectations and then meeting them, following through, or exceeding those expectations about when we're doing certain things, why we're doing certain things, what we're doing when we're doing them.
Chris: It's just been so fascinating to feel like, Oh, when things go radio silent for a minute, you feel powerless.
Gina: Yeah. Yeah. Thanks, yeah.
Chris: You're like, Well, what's going on now?
Gina: Yeah, what's going on? Are you working for me or not? There's a lot of money. What are we doing? Is anything happening?
Gina: Yeah, that's a lot of anxiety. So, I want to go back to, just, when you spoke to the architect. Because there are, like, lots of reasons why someone might do a project like you're doing, right?
Chris: Yes. Yep.
Gina: You could be like, I want to increase the value of the place in general. I want the absolute perfect art studio that, you know, my partner can work in for the next two decades. I want to make sure that it's super modular and that we might be able to, you know, extend it in a few years.
Gina: Like, I want to really invest, you know, I've got a big budget I want to invest up front. Or, you know what? I've got a little budget, I want to just start with something, and in two years I want to talk again. Like, there's lots of different, like, priorities, right? Did the architect sort of say to you, you know, what, like, what's most important to you? Is it most important that we get this absolutely right now? Is it value... Like, did you kind of set that north star that we call it in our business? Like, this is... Like, what is the, you know, the most important thing to you in this project? I know you, so I know you have this in mind.
Gina: But I'm curious if the architect wanted to know.
Chris: So, it's a complicated answer.
Chris: Yes. I think...
Gina: Yes to all of those. (Laughs)
Chris: Yeah. I mean, we did have some of those discussions for sure. We did set a north star about, you know, ultimately, what are the, like, guiding principles behind what we're doing?
Gina: What does success look like at the end of this?
Gina: Yeah. Yeah.
Chris: So that was clear. But here's the thing. There's the overall north star, and then there's these micro-decisions that happen every single time you meet.
Chris: You know, every time you talk, there's a bunch of, like, little things that ladder up to that north star.
Chris: And some of those things are more obvious and easier to talk about than others.
Chris: And because we are, we're not domain experts, it is not always obvious to us where, you know...
Gina: How they connect. Yeah.
Chris: ...the important trade-offs are versus the the smaller things. Right? We had a whole discussion about the roof material. Like, what kind of roof do you want? Do you want shingles? Do you want metal? And I felt like a novice because I was like, I... what are the trade-offs?
Gina: I dunno, you tell me. Like, what does one get me over the other?
Chris: Yeah! Right? Are we talking about, like, how long they last?
Chris: Are we talking about what kind of maintenance they need?
Gina: Talking about aesthetics?
Chris: Right. Are we talking about, I mean, we live in a world of climate change, right? Are we talking about, like, how resilient this is going to be to a bad storm, or something?
Chris: I just don't know. I don't even know what questions to ask. And so, yes, the guiding principles were clear, but it's also like, it is a constant... You need, you need guidance, you need a point of view.
Chris: Again, it's so funny because we would have these meetings, and then I would, you know, we'd hang up and I'd turn to my wife and I'd be like, This is what we tell our people. Like, you need to come with a point of view!
Gina: Right. You need to come with a point of view, right? So you kind of want them to say to you, "Here are your options. It could be metal, it could be shingles, it could be this. But, you know, I heard from you that you really like the aesthetics of metal, or I heard from you that, like, you want this roof to last for the next 20 years. You don't want to have to replace it, or, you know, I think, I would recommend this one for that reason. But here's what you're going to trade off."
Gina: This is about, like, really listening to the client and understanding what's important to them.
Gina: Because you can't have a point of view unless... You have to have some inputs, right?
Gina: Some, some data points, right, to have that point of view and say, this is the reason why... Or even if not, no inputs from the client, just "I prefer the shingles because I'm concerned about climate change" or whatever it is. Like, this is what I recommend to my clients because this is what I'm seeing right now in the world.
Chris: Yes. Or, I've done two dozen of these projects and I know that in year six, you know, you're going to experience problems this way...
Gina: You're gonna have a roof problem. Right.
Chris: So make sure that you choose X, Y, or Z.
Chris: Like, they are bringing a level of experience and expertise to the issue that we just do not have. Like, this is our first, literally number one, right? Construction project. And they have done, I mean, hundreds, collectively when you look across their firm.
Chris: So again, this is the same thing that I think we try to do in our business, where...
Gina: Right. Make your recommendation, have a point of view.
Chris: Have a point of view, right?
Chris: We have stood up platforms that have scaled to millions of users. And here are some decisions that you want to make in the, ahead of time if that's where you think you're going. Or not. Maybe you have a different aim, right? You want to get something in the hands of users as fast as possible. Okay, then you're going to make a different set of trade-offs.
Chris: Like, the guiding principles need to translate to, here are the decisions that you're going to make on a day-to-day level that are going to, like, meaningfully impact the thing you're building.
Gina: Yes, I always think about that. That scene in Mad Men, and I'm going to... I may not recall it perfectly because it's been a long, many years, but they're basically, they're in the cab on the way, the team wants to put a couple of options in front of, like, Heinz or something.
Gina: And they're in the cab on the way there. And Don, like, very purposefully leaves behind the other options and goes in with one option.
Gina: And says this... This is it.
Chris: This is it.
Gina: And of course, you know, TV world, they sell it, et cetera. But later on the team was like...
Chris: What the hell?
Gina: What the hell?
Gina: We did so much work on those other options. They were good. Why wouldn't we put them in front of the client? And Don Draper says, you don't put multiple options in front of the client.
Chris: (Laughs) I love it.
Gina: It makes you look weak.
Gina: Yeah. Sick burn. It makes you look weak.
Chris: That's great, though.
Gina: Which has always stuck with me, right? Because I go back and forth on this, right? Because I really view our clients as partners, right? So, like, I don't want to treat them like they're dumb. They don't know their business. Like, you know, I don't want to put options in front of them and then say, like, Depends! Up to you, what do you think? I like showing them a couple of options and then saying, These are the trade-offs, these are the dependencies and here's what I would go with if I were you. But, like, maybe they're going to give me information that I don't have. Or maybe there's another, you know, like, we haven't uncovered. I think that should be a conversation, when you are partnering...
Chris: I agree.
Gina: ...with someone. So I think that like, you know, there's only one good option and anything else makes you look weak is a little too extreme, and very well made for TV. But I always think about that scene.
Chris: I mean, I think there's truth to it.
Gina: There is a little truth to it.
Chris: I think there is a, there is a time and a place where it is incumbent upon you as the, as the expert in the room...
Chris: ...to be like...
Gina: This is what you should have. This is what you should do.
Chris: This is what you should do. And here's why.
Chris: And I gotta say, as a... Again, as a client in the scenario where we're building something, it's actually a relief.
Gina: Yes. Yeah.
Chris: When you have someone come to you and say...
Gina: Yeah. You're like, the expert is telling me...
Chris: "I'm confident that this is what you need to do."
Gina: This is also applicable in doctor-patient relationships. Like, you know.
Chris: Ooh, that's a great one.
Gina: It's a great one, right? I went through a whole health thing a few months ago, and there were decision points, and, you know, my doctor was amazing, and she would lay out all the options, and I'd be like, okay, I understand. And it was like, What would you do?
Gina: If this was you or your daughter, what would you recommend? I want, I wanted to know. And I think she was, you know, really trying to empower me to make decisions about, you know, my life and my health. And I get that.
Gina: But I also wanted to know. Because I trusted her and, you know, that was important to me. And so, it always... it always just, it drives me a little crazy when the doctors are like "Up to you."
Chris: (Laughs) Right.
Gina: And I'm like, I understand that it's my life and my health and it's up to me.
Chris: Right. But I didn't go to med school and I...
Gina: I didn't go to med school! Yeah! Like, I want... What would you do if it was your mom or your sister or your daughter? Like, I always try to ask that.
Gina: So, totally agree with this. This is a hard thing, right? Because it's scary. You go out on a limb and say, this is what you should do, you know? (Laughs)
Gina: Like, I want to do the right thing for my client. I want them to own this decision. But also, I want to tell them, I want to give them good advice.
Chris: I want to give them good advice. And I want to make sure that we are, we're guiding in the, in the way that I think we can do from a more informed place. Right? A little bit more... We have a little bit more to draw on.
Chris: Just like you've got experts in other fields who have a little bit more to draw on.
Chris: And so, it's, it's very helpful to hear, you know, what decision a doctor would make, or what decision an architect would make.
Chris: You know? The other thing that is very relevant, I think, to what we do is, there are cost implications that we just don't...
Chris: ...we don't have facility with.
Gina: Yeah. Say... Say more about that.
Chris: There are deci... You know, you could choose to have a siding of a particular wood that is 20 times more expensive than a different kind of wood,
Chris: And... (Laughs) There might be a justification for that. Or there might not. And it's very hard to make a call without knowing the ins and outs of what you're doing. And we really need guidance and direction there too. Because, I mean, obviously we're looking to stay within budget and control our costs as much as possible.
Gina: Sure. Everybody is.
Chris: But we don't want to make a dumb decision, right? We don't want to save a dollar now and have to spend $100 in a couple of years because what we picked, you know, was not durable or it wouldn't stand up in the environment that we expected it to. Like, there are very real trade-offs that you're making.
Chris: Or like, ordering the windows. Windows are very expensive, we've found out. But it's like, there are...
Chris: You know, there are, there's a reason to go with, like, a higher-end material, because it's going to...
Gina: Right. Save your own heating and cooling bills.
Gina: And insulation. Yep. Mhm. Mhm.
Chris: Right. So the idea that, to spend your money wisely, you need to have more information and more guidance...
Chris: ...is crucial in making these decisions.
Chris: Very much a parallel to our business, right?
Chris: You... there are things you can do in a software project that will be a lot more cost-effective, right? Up front. And it's on us as the provider to say, hey, let's talk through what these options are, and we're going to come with a recommendation, because we think you don't need to spend this money right now. Or, you do need to spend this money right now, and here's why.
Gina: Right. Because you're going to save this money.... The total cost of ownership question, right? Like, how much money am I going to save in the long run if I invest up front here?
Chris: Total cost of ownership. That's right.
Gina: And these decisions, particularly these big budget decisions, you're not making them in isolation, right? Because you've got this overall budget.
Gina: And you're like, okay, I'm convinced that the wood that costs 70% more, I'm getting the value for my dollar now, like I should, I should spend that. But I have a reality, which is that I have a set amount of dollars now for this entire project. How does this affect my budget for the other things? And is the value I'm going to get from the more expensive windows more than the value I'm going to get from the wood siding? Right?
Chris: This is exactly it.
Gina: They're all, like, all the dependencies, right?
Gina: So you've gotta, if you're going to spend here, you're going to save here. And how does that... Is your architect, are your people, is your team, like, helping you, helping you with those kinds of decisions? Are you feeling...?
Chris: They are.
Gina: Okay. There's a spreadsheet, I imagine.
Chris: Oh, my God. There are multiple spreadsheets.
Gina: (Laughs) Multiple spreadsheets.
Chris: Well, and... The architect is making design decisions.
Chris: So what's interesting is, they will propose something, but then they'll also say, like, we don't have to include this, right? An example of this is there are planters. Like, outside of the studio on the exterior. Which look really great, you know, in the renderings they look amazing. And so we're like, This is awesome.
Gina: Yeah. Those renderings, they'll get you.
Gina: Yeah. (Laughs) The budget expands when you see the rendering. Yep.
Chris: They're very effective. That's another small thing, by the way. Right? Why... What's the importance of a high-fidelity visual mockup? Well, that's why.
Gina: That's why. You see the planters. (Laughs)
Chris: It brings it to life in a way that you don't... When you're looking at a schematic design, it's like, okay. It's the same thing with a wireframe and a visual design.
Gina: Yes. Yes.
Chris: Like, it just... You connect to it in a way that you don't connect to when you're just looking at...
Gina: Lines. Yep.
Chris: ...a skeleton. But the idea is, with the planters, it's like, when you're looking at it in a row in a spreadsheet, it's like, Oh. This is going to be more concrete and more planning and more excavating. And it's like, there are implications there that we wouldn't necessarily have talked through, you know, when we're just looking at a picture, a really nice picture. And the architects, to their credit, have said, Let's make sure that we're thinking about the downstream implications of all these decisions. Because just because we can design it does not mean it's the right decision overall.
Chris: Same thing with the roof, by the way, to come back to the roof. You could do, like, a really interesting roof design that is angled in a certain way, pitched in a certain way and, like, looks really interesting, but is more to construct, and is not as standard when it comes to building.
Gina: Right. Yeah.
Chris: So it's going to cost more.
Gina: It's going to cost more, right? Maybe it's going to be weirder, harder to fix later or...
Gina: Yeah. Yeah.
Chris: So those design decisions, like, you need to be thinking about the building when you're designing.
Gina: Yeah, absolutely. One of our philosophies when we're building software is like, just to be really pragmatic. Meaning, like, there's, you know, new and cutting-edge technologies and programming languages and approaches that that we could use that's like, really new. Not a lot of talent in the market out there, but we can do it. It would make it so fast and it would be so great. And then it's like, wait a second, y'all. (Laughs) What if our client needs, you know, needs to build a team or hire for this? What if this falls out of vogue? Why don't we use something that is proven, pragmatic, that's easy to hire for, that's easy to maintain later on, that isn't, you know...
Gina: It's a little boring, right? So, you know, we'll sometimes use, you know, an unusual programming language or approach for like a one-time deal that's not going to be living in the platform forever. Right? Because you want, you want it to be easy to maintain and grow later.
Gina: Because it's going to be around, you know, if you're good at your job. (Laughs)
Gina: The project's going to live on and grow and change over time, right? So it has to be something that you can easily staff and, and train up folks on and have a great developer experience and, and have lots of documentation. And... yeah.
Chris: This trade-off, this balance, is something that is so important to get right. We have had projects where there have been very particular needs around like, high throughput, high scale. When you have a lot of users using the system at one time.
Chris: And those can, you may want to choose like a more niche technology or a programming language that is not as common, because there's a reason for it, right? You want to use Erlang or you want to use something that's like...
Gina: Elixir. Yeah. Mhm.
Chris: Elixir. Exactly. These things that are not as widespread, but they are very, very good at a particular kind of...
Gina: Particular job. And you need... that's the most important priority.
Chris: That's right. Again, same thing with building a building, right? One of the needs of an art studio is that you have to have really good ventilation. And so, like, we have this whole system designed with a, with a fan that can, like, you know, move a lot of air through the system. It's specialized. And we wouldn't, you wouldn't need to do that if you were just building a house, right? But because this has a particular application, we need to make sure that we have the right setup for it.
Chris: Yeah. It's, it's fascinating to think about just not knowing. And... And it's, it's a constant reminder that it is incumbent upon providers to make sure that they are one or two or three steps ahead, and making sure that they're bringing their client along.
Gina: Along with them.
Chris: So that they feel informed, their expectations are set, they feel informed, they feel included, but they also feel guided.
Gina: Guided, right.
Chris: You want to feel guided. You want to feel like you are in good hands.
Chris: That is what I want all of our clients to feel. I want all of our clients to feel like, okay. I'm not just cutting these people a check and having them write code and I have no idea what's going on.
Chris: Like, I am, I am guided, right?
Gina: Right. I have a great partner, they know their stuff.
Gina: And they brought me to the right... They knew what to do and they were right. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Chris: Yes. That's... Partnership is, it implies some level of, you know, we're taking on your problems and we feel some responsibility.
Gina: Right. We're not just hired hands. We're taking on your problems. And your success is our success.
Chris: That's exactly...
Gina: That, that partnership is, I think is so important. I mean, it's like... You have to go in feeling like, not only am I here to do a job, but I'm here to, not teach, but sort of externalize what that job is, how I'm doing it.
Chris: That's it.
Gina: What progress we made this week, what I'm concerned about, what we, what blockers we have to clear, what decisions that we have to make. And then... Yeah, yeah.
Gina: So, like, two and a half weeks without an email, not to... It sounds like you have a great team, but that's too long.
Chris: Yeah. I mean...
Gina: Way too long. Especially when you're spending, you know, a big amount of, you know...
Chris: A big, a large amount of money.
Gina: A large amount of money. Yeah.
Chris: Yeah, we addressed that, and that got better. You know.
Gina: Yeah. Good. That's good.
Chris: And I think it's the same kind of thing when you're, if you're on the client side, right? And you're not getting... You put it beautifully, that externalization, you know, of what's happening.
Gina: Yeah. This is what's happening. Right.
Chris: Then you need to press for that. It's the same thing with internal teams, by the way.
Chris: If you are, like, an internal product team, there are other groups in your company - marketing, sales...
Gina: Customer experience.
Chris: Customer experience, customer success, that are not aware of what's going on.
Gina: What's going on.
Chris: And it's in... it's your job to externalize it.
Chris: It's not their job to predict what's going on in the product team.
Gina: That's right. Because they all have in their minds all of the, you know, we didn't sell, we didn't close this deal because we don't have these features. Or this customer is frustrated and our product isn't working, right? So you're actually, you know, as an internal product team, you have to constantly sort of communicate out, here's all the progress that we made.
Chris: Yes. That's right.
Gina: And here are our priorities and here's why. And look at how great we're doing, right? To just sort of counteract the feeling of, like, why isn't our product where it needs to be? Why is this competitor so much better? You know, what are we doing? Just that feeling of like, oh, we're stagnant, nothing's happening. I mean, I've had this as a, as a leader. I've just been like, What are we doing? We're stalled, we're paralyzed, nothing's happening. And then, you know, somebody on my team was like, No, no, Gina. Like, here's the list. And I was like, I just needed to know what was going on. I need you to tell me. You need to equip me with that. Right.
Chris: You need to equip me with that.
Chris: It's great that it was happening.
Chris: But it's not good that we didn't know.
Gina: Right. Right. It's that, you know, perception is reality.
Chris: Perception is reality.
Gina: (Laughs) Perception is reality. Right. So if your client, you know, perceives that you're stalled and things are slow, then they are, right?
Gina: Yeah. And often it's just communication. That's broken.
Chris: It's communication. It's not about a missing specialty, right? It's actually one of the basics. There's this weird human thing, too, where it doesn't feel good when you have to ask, and then there's a response, and there was a lot going on, and it's like, okay.
Gina: Yeah. Why did I have to ask?
Chris: Why did I have to ask? I'm happy that there was a lot going on, but there's... it's tinged with, like... It feels not good. (Laughs) You know?
Gina: Right. Well, the feeling is, oh, it wasn't a priority for you to let me know what was going on.
Chris: That's right.
Gina: Like, I'm your client. Like, aren't I your first priority? Like... And, you know, I get, I get it. Especially with crafts, with people who are, you know, practitioners and are so good at their crafts. Like, they're like, I want to get the job. Like the work is going to speak for itself. But that's not true.
Gina: You have to also speak for the work.
Chris: You have to fill in the context around the work.
Gina: You have to fill in the context of the work, yeah.
Chris: Yeah. To come back to the options thing for a second, I also think there's something to be said for presenting a recommend, like one recommendation, or maybe, like, two recommendations that both feel really good, but then hinting at, or, like ,in a low-fidelity way, describing that you explored a lot of other paths, and they didn't work.
Chris: This is something that we've done in the past.
Chris: One of my favorite techniques, and you've seen this happen.
Gina: I have. I know exactly what you're talking about.
Chris: I pull up a design document and I zoom way out.
Gina: Way out, right. So it's just thumbnails.
Gina: A field of thumbnails.
Chris: You can't see anything. But what you can see is the breadth. And I will describe to a client, like, we did 24 explorations across a lot of different paths. We're not going to show them all to you today. What we are going to show you are the two that felt really good.
Gina: This works so well. I mean, you just, you get the like, raised eyebrows. The like, Oh! (Laughs) Okay. Like, you are hard at work last week, and now you're going to... And now you're just going to give me the headline, which also, executives, like high-level people, are like, great.
Chris: Give me the headline.
Gina: Don't walk me through the 24 options. Yeah, yeah. But I see the work you put in. This wasn't an off the shelf, here's what you should do.
Gina: You know, this was like, we, we did all these explorations based on your, your issue, and this is what we came up with. It's a very good technique. And I mean, it's true. Like, we do...
Chris: It's not...
Gina: It's not showmanship. It's the truth.
Gina: But it's about communicating, it's about saying, showing your work a little bit.
Chris: That's right. If you're showing it to just prove that you did a lot of work, that's the wrong answer.
Gina: Right, right.
Chris: What you should be doing is trying to include... Again, it's setting context.
Chris: Bring your client in and say, here's, here's what we've been going through. We don't want to dive into all these details because that's not a good use of your time. That's what our time is for.
Gina: That's what our time is for. That's right.
Chris: Right? But we want you to know that it happened so that it provides the layer around what we are actually going to show you today.
Gina: This is when a client feels like they're getting just great high-end service. Right?
Chris: That's right. There's one more point I want to make.
Chris: It is a really bad feeling as a client when you are on a time and materials contract... So our contract with our architect is fixed fee.
Chris: But we have... There's some portion of the work that we're doing on a time and materials basis.
Gina: Okay. So, so when you say fixed fee, it's one dollar amount for an outcome and you're not counting hours. It's not like, you have this many people... It's just, this is the price, and here's what we're getting for the price.
Chris: That's exactly right.
Gina: And then time and materials is, I bring in the plumber for three hours and you're paying for, and he's 50 bucks an hour or whatever it is... That's probably very low when you're paying for that. (Laughs) I just want to make sure...
Chris: Yes, that is the structure.
Chris: Just to make it clear, we're doing the studio project and then we have a small adjacent project that came up as we were talking about the studio. And so that very small project we're doing as a time and materials project.
Gina: Time and materials. Got it.
Chris: Where we're just essentially spending for time spent.
Gina: For the... got it. Got it. Yep.
Chris: And the point I want to make is, it feels really bad when you feel like you're paying for time and you don't know how the time is being spent.
Gina: And you don't know how the time is being spent. And you think, this person is just billing me hours and I don't know where they're going.
Chris: Right. We have locked into a very good relationship with our architects, so we don't feel like they are using our money irresponsibly. But it does really bring home... When it's your own money...
Gina: (Laughs) Yeah.
Chris: ...it really brings home for you how you should be interpreting what your clients feel. And it's not exactly a one-to-one comparison, right? Because very often our clients are senior executives who are, you know, working with budgets that were handed down. That it's not... It's not quite the same as like, you know, we're giving this to you out of our savings.
Chris: But it is a very, you know, personal thing. Where you feel like, oh, this is... I want to make sure that every hour is, like, well spent.
Gina: Right. Because our family vacation isn't going to happen if this overruns. Like, it's a very personal thing.
Chris: It's a very personal...
Gina: Or, you know, dinner or school or whatever it is, you know, because it's your own money.
Chris: That's right. And it just, it really highlighted for me that when we have... I mean, in all kinds of engagements, but certainly when we're doing time and materials engagements where we are, where the client is paying for our time because we are providing, you know, a level of service or expertise or implementation that they don't have, we have a huge responsibility there to make sure that we are using that time wisely and giving them the value. And showing them...
Gina: Showing them the value. This is why you're paying us. This is why we spent this time. This is why several weeks and here's what you got.
Chris: This is why... right. This is what you got done. Right? It ultimately has to translate to something you accomplished, right?
Gina: That's right.
Chris: It's not... You can't just spend the time to spend the time. It has to be, you know, we got this design done, or we did these revisions, or we did, you know, whatever the case may be.
Chris: It's like, you gotta tie it to an outcome.
Gina: An outcome. No one pays for people to sit in seats in their office.
Chris: That's right.
Gina: (Laughs) Yeah. Right. I'm sure you're loving having your, your space crawling with construction workers at the moment.
Chris: Yeah. Well, that's a whole other thing.
Gina: Yeah. I'm sure.
Chris: Yeah. I mean....
Gina: New perspective on time and materials. Yeah. Yeah.
Chris: It's a new perspective on time materials. Yeah. When you get that invoice and you're like, Oh, it's been this much time spent and it's...
Chris: If I can't map that in my head... Again, I want to be clear. I have been able to. Like, it's not like I'm just complaining on the podcast about...
Gina: Right. (Laughs)
Chris: ...how unhappy I am with my architect.
Gina: Right, right, right.
Chris: But it brings it into stark focus that you need to make sure that those hours mean something.
Chris: This is something that we have tried to infuse across the whole company, right? The whole group that we manage. You need to...
Gina: Show the value. Demonstrate the value.
Chris: You need to show the value. You need to be thinking about the business outcome, not about the time spent. It is not about logging hours.
Gina: That's right.
Chris: It is about getting something accomplished.
Gina: Right. It's not about filling the 40 hours that you got booked for. That's right, that's right, that's right.
Chris: That's exactly right.
Gina: I knew that you had this project going on, but this is a lot. (Laughs)
Chris: It's a lot. It's a lot.
Gina: It's going to be awesome. It's going to be awesome when it's all done. But this is a journey.
Chris: I'm very excited.
Gina: I'm glad this is happening, because I feel renewed empathy with our clients. (Laughs) And it sounds like you definitely have it as well.
Chris: I absolutely do. And I love client work, you know. But it has been a good reminder. About, about...
Gina: Good reminder. The basics.
Chris: About getting the basics right, and about making sure that we are bringing our clients along. Right? And that we are giving good guidance. Because that, at the end of the day, like, that's why we're in the room. That's what we need to be doing.
Gina: Yeah. You're in the middle of the journey, you're in the woods. You're like, I don't know. I think we're... (Laughs) I think we're walking in the right direction and it's going to be great when we get there, but you're going to get there. And that's when, you know, when you, when you set those expectations and that communication is happening, when you feel like you've gotten value for your dollar, that's when you shout from the rooftops that this went really well and recommend these folks to build for others, and re-engage them...
Chris: I'm so glad you said that.
Gina: ...in a couple of years on something else.
Chris: That is 100% playing out. And we are already thinking about the next project that we want to do. You know? If and when we're able to do it. So, you know, good business begets good business, right?
Chris: If you're happy with... I mean, it goes the same for construction, right? I mean, there are, you know, projects that live and die by the contractor that you get.
Chris: So, making sure that you've got a good team and then, you know, knowing you've got a good team, then you're 1000% more likely to want to work with them again in the future.
Chris: And we're very lucky that we've had a lot of repeat business from our clients, because...
Gina: It's the majority of our business, is repeat business.
Chris: ...Majority of our business. That's right.
Gina: Yeah, that's right. And you know, and our clients, our stakeholders, they got bosses. Everybody's got a boss.
Chris: Everybody's got a boss.
Gina: They've got bosses, they've got a budget, they have a mandate. And when we can get them there, and their bosses are saying to them, when they're in the middle of the woods, are you going in the right direction? Is something happening? What's happening? And if we equip them with, this is what's happening, and we're on the way, and we're going to have something great. I mean, when I hear that one of our clients, you know, more than one, several of our clients, you know, have gotten promoted because they've been able to show...
Chris: Love that.
Gina: Brought in this partner, got this done. We're in a better place than when we started. You gave me this big, hairy, you know, difficult product-to-platform IT project. And I got it done.
Chris: We got it done. Yep.
Gina: That's, that's huge. That's huge. We've seen, we've seen several people... Because, you know, then they build that reputation with their boss. It's like, oh, they get this done. You know?
Chris: That's right.
Gina: Clients will say to us, like, we couldn't have done this without you. And I was like, That's... great. Then we did our job!
Chris: Then we did our job.
Gina: Yeah, exactly.
Chris: We showed, we showed that we can ship. We showed that you can ship.
Gina: We showed that you can ship. That's right. That's right. That's the point.
Chris: This is great. If others are listening and they're like, you know, I have a story that's similar to this, or maybe something's not going as well and we want to talk about it. We love to hear these kinds of things. We love to hear a tough software project or a parallel to the trials and tribulations of building software.
Gina: (Laughs) We do.
Chris: We have a new email address, please reach out. It's Catalyst - c-a-t-a-l-y-s-t - @NTTData.com. I will be honest with all of you that we have gotten less response.
Gina: Less... little less email lately, y'all.
Chris: Then we then we used to get. So...
Gina: (Laughs) We want to see your email.
Chris: So, this is the call to action.
Gina: We read every single one. Yep.
Chris: We like reading emails.
Gina: We really do. It's a weird thing to say.
Chris: It is a weird thing. (Laughs) Yeah. Reach out, we'd love to hear from you, and we appreciate your time.
Gina: And your listening, listening to us. So. Work out all of our inner demons on the show.
Chris: (Laughs) That's why we do this, Gina.
Gina: We have to do a follow-up to this one because I want to hear how this project goes.
Chris: We'll do it in a few months.
Gina: (Laughs) That sounds great.
Gina: Thanks, Chris.
Chris: Thanks all. Bye bye.
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