Leo Römers' Design Narrative: Presenting a solution to a potential customer
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4 May 2013
Presenting a solution
I developed and presented a solution for an ICT case to a potential customer.
In the context of applying for a role about 1 week ago as free-lance IT architect, I was given a case by email by my potential customer for which I needed to present a solution. The presentation was to be held in front of both my direct contact and his boss, the CIO of the company. The case involved three questions, the first two of an organisational nature, the third one technical.
The role required a wide range of skills and my contact was concerned that I might not be interested in some of the hands-on aspects, i.e. some programming that needed to be done. The work to be done was of strategic importance and had political and interdepartmental coordination and cooperation aspects involved.
I wanted to validate some assumptions I had made about the work to be done, to make sure both my contact understood my approach as well as the solution offered and could subscribe to that. In addition I once again wanted to convince my contact that the hands-on programming work was no issue. I also wanted to ensure that I could build an effective working relationship with the CIO and establish mutual trust and respect.
My measure of success (in the meeting) was to get verbal and non-verbal feedback that they understood and were happy with the approach and with me as a person. Final measure of success will be whether or not I will be hired.
I translated the case into a diagram showing all major factors involved.
I prepared a Powerpoint presentation, setting up a structure to ensure I would validate my understanding of the case and address all three questions.
At the meeting after I was given the word, I thanked them for the invitation and gave them a hard copy of the presentation. I briefly indicated contents and then went on to explain my understanding of the situation as presented in the case. They confirmed this was largely correct with some exceptions not covered in the case. Subsequently I compared this to three different scenarios from the industry, one of which represented the direction they intended to take and which I challenged mildly. I made sure they understood that the direction they wanted to go in required both investments and senior management support early on, with benefits only for future projects. They confirmed they were aware of this and agreed to it.
I subsequently explained the organizational roles involved and how to distribute responsibilities, once again discussing some alternatives. My contact asked me to make more specific recommendations and I explained that at this stage that was not possible without having further details of/interviews from people within the organisation.
Finally I presented two solutions to the technical problem, one of which was within their preferred direction. Judging from his questions, my contact did not fully understand the solution, but the CIO did and I was able to clarify this sufficiently.
The CIO appeared pleased about the pragmatic approach. My contact was more detail oriented and I could satisfy most of his needs by verbal clarification.
Expected outcomes were that I received confirmation of my understanding of their case, demonstrating my expertise in the ICT domain concerned. From their responses it was clear they understood the approach, its preconditions and likely benefits. Based on a smooth flowing, frank conversation it appears that there is mutual trust and respect. Also non-verbal responses (nodding, positive tone, etc.) indicated that this was the case. They indicated that before I could be contracted, they first needed to complete a software selection process and would get in touch again within two weeks.
Additional outcomes were that I was able to assess that the CIO had a good grasp of the subject and that he was committed to the project.
Although some of the Powerpoint slides were very useful, others (such as contents of presentation) could just as easily have been done verbally. Although I had limited the number of pages, I could have reduced them even further for the purpose of this meeting as the redundant pages created some "clutter" in the conversation.
I also realised I had concentrated (in the pictures) mostly on the technical aspects. Adding some images to show the organisational aspects might have been more effective. As my contact was more detail-oriented I might have included some more detailed pages in an Appendix.