Comparisons to Avengers characters are all the rage on Twitter these days (or were a few months ago – I’m a bit late to the game). Consultants see a lot of “characters” in their clients, so why not nerd up the Avengers game with some job-specific comparisons? And just because I’m nice, I’ll include some advice on how to deal with each when you encounter them in the wild.
1. Black Widow – The Incredibly Competent Client
The Black Widow client is a dream to work with. Need information? They’ve got it. Require a decision? They’ll round everyone up and have the consensus to you ASAP. This client delivers for you like Natasha Romanov delivers for Nick Fury: no questions asked, everything you request is done quickly, efficiently, and correctly. The project is smooth sailing because you have everything you need.
Staying sane: Don’t despair if you’ve never seen one, and don’t get used to it if you have one – the Black Widow client is a unicorn in your consulting career.
2. Loki – The Client of Ever-Changing Requirements
If you’ve been working in consulting for more than 5 minutes, you recognize the Loki client. You’ve gotten elbow-deep in work on a particular requirement and it changes. Ten hours of work on the new requirement and it changes again. Procrastinate work on the newest new requirement and suddenly they want the original requirement back, but with one or two (or ten) “little” modifications. Complete that work to find out you’ve “misunderstood what they requested,” and need something totally different. Just like the Master of Magic, this client’s requirements are constantly shifting, all over the place, and not always what they seem.
Staying sane: Document everything! Make one team member responsible for documenting every request and every decision from the client. Relate everything back to the established project requirements (this is where a Requirements Traceability Matrix really comes in handy). Reinforce the re-work inherent in every change, and, if the changes continue, refuse to work on them without a signed Change Order (and its associated $$$).
3. Star Lord – The Legacy Systems Client
Your Star Lord client is on the oldest legacy systems and cannot possibly see a way to upgrade to the latest tech. IE is the only browser installed on user computers. Within Salesforce, everything is Visualforce – don’t even dream about conversion to Lightning, much less implementing cool Lightning Web Components or the latest Mulesoft integrations. Like Peter Quill clings to his Walkman, this client clings to outdated technology as a safety blanket against a rapidly-changing business landscape (I had to throw in a little consulting-ese; see “How to Speak Like a Consultant” for a fun breakdown of some other pervasive consulting terms).
Staying sane: Get a thorough understanding of the legacy systems. When proposing an upgrade or replacement, know ALL the ins and outs of how it will work with the old stuff. Security is often a concern when clinging to old tech, so be prepared to talk extensively about security measures for everything you’re doing. The other major concern is user adoption/training. Address this worry by including a change management and user training component in your SOW whenever possible.
4. Iron Man – The Flashy Tech Client
An Iron Man client is the opposite of the Star Lord client – they want all the newest, flashiest tech implemented on this project. Whether it’s a good fit for their requirements is secondary. Limited features available? Make it work. Doesn’t fully support the use cases? Who cares? Little to no documentation available? You’ll figure it out – that’s why they’re paying you, right?
Staying sane: Give a thorough explanation of why any particular piece of tech that the client loves won’t be suitable. List all the use cases or requirements that the software is unable to address, and discuss how you’ll work around that (with an emphasis on the time required to do so). Where possible, have alternatives in mind that can easily be upgraded when the client’s favored solution is more complete. Ascertain why the client is so attached to this particular tech – do they see a particular piece of functionality as necessary? do they love the UI? or are they swooning over the prestige inherent in using the solution? Looks and functionality can often be reproduced with moderate effort, but if it’s all about the name, then understand you probably won’t win the battle.
5. Hulk – The Jekyll & Hyde Client
The Hulk client is one that’s a dream to work with during the sales cycle, but turns into a monster during the delivery phase. The sales team doesn’t understand why you’re having such a hard time managing this client – they were awesome before you started working with them! Whatever they were like before, suddenly they’re easily set off and not at all happy about working with you. Another version of The Hulk client is when you’re dealing with two primary points of contact at the client. One is Bruce Banner, and the other is a perpetually furious monster (that might be a bit of an exaggeration).
Staying sane: These issues are often a result of a breakdown in communication. Talk to anyone who has worked with this client or individual. Your goal is to get a better understanding of their preferred communication style. If you can’t get it from anyone internally, ask the client directly. Over-prepare for meetings, and pay close attention to the client’s reactions. You can’t make a mean person behave kindly, but you might be able to at least improve the relationship.
6. Thanos – The Impossible Client
This is just not going to work. You see that. They see that. But you’re both locked into a contract, ostensibly with a common goal, so you keep fighting it out. In this comparison, you’re the Avengers, so obviously you’re in the right, but the Thanos client firmly believes their way of accomplishing the goal is correct (not like they’ve hired you to be the expert on this project, but whatever).
Staying sane: If they are truly a hopeless client (and those are rare, if you’re doing your job right), and there’s no way this project is going to end well for anybody, fire them. But that decision probably isn’t yours to make, is it? So put on your game face, play your A game, and make sure you have coping skills that are a bit healthier than happy hour.
Lindsay Holmes is Senior Consultant at Statera and Certified Salesforce Developer. She likes to learn about basically everything and nerd out on Lightning Components. Outside of work hours you’ll find her de-stressing by petting a kitty or riding her road bike until her legs stop working.