4 Things Clients Need from a Lead Developer from a Communication Perspective

You’re a tech lead and naturally you want to satisfy your clients. A big part of satisfying a client resides in your communication ability, content therein and frequency. Clients need to be kept abreast of specific things all throughout the development process, and certain members of the development team need to relay specific information. Herein we’d like to go over what we believe to be the four most significant things that clients need from the lead developer.

Transparency

Transparency is crucial if you truly aim to build a product that will meet your client’s needs. Therefore, keeping them up-to-date on the development progress is necessary. Now why is that? Well consider the simple fact that every client wants to know how their budget is being spent, and without transparent communication you will likely never build trust within the relationship.

To ensure mutual trust, two-way transparency is a must. For instance, this means for the vendor side, no hiding of mistakes, and for the client side, no hiding deadlines for personal gain. Deadlines and the development timeline affect decisions on the technical side as we need to make decisions according to the timeline. For example, sometimes we consider the scalability to avoid tech depth for the security considerations and this is intertwined with the timeline. If there is a lack of transparency here, the resulting product or iteration will suffer.

It’s best for all to agree to be on the level. Consequently all parties involved need to be fully aware of that which they are uniquely responsible & accountable for, defined clearly from the onset of the project. Clients can be separated into the technical and non-technical type. Technical clients typically have a good grasp of the technology which greatly aids in the discussion and communication. Though non-technical clients have little to no understanding and therefore, require more explanation and perhaps increased communication. Either way, ensuring the communication is transparent will strengthen the relationship, build trust and help you avoid unnecessary headaches.

Self-awareness & trust

Transparency leads neatly to our second point of self-awareness and trust. Your client likely knows far more about their industry than you ever will, but the same is true in reverse. It’s important to be aware that your client is an expert in their field so respect that and trust in the knowledge they share with you, and in return your client should extend you, the tech vendor, the same courtesies.

The client company is employing the tech lead because of the level of tech expertise he/she brings to the table/discussion. Trust is vital to that discussion, and trust begins, as stated previously, with transparency. The client needs to be reassured that the decisions they’re making are correct, and ultimately the product they want to develop is viable in the form they envision. For that reason, as the vendor it’s vital to not just listen to your client, but rather genuinely hear what they are telling you. This is a hallmark of a trusting relationship.

Feasibility & estimation

As you’re likely aware, when the client approaches you, they will come equipped with many ideas and a laundry list of wants; their imagination is healthy, but not always grounded in reality. Though from a the standpoint, what they need and want are not always aligned with what’s possible and feasible. You as the tech lead then need to steer them in the direction of shaping their ideas into a real, feasible product.

Estimation comes into play with the laundry list of features they present to you. You have to tell them, “Yes we can do that, it’s possible to build, but it may take years so… Is that something you’re really willing to budget and wait for?” In swoops the technical expert to suggest a different way with perhaps more feasible features that can still benefit the product.

Priority suggestions & simplistic features

The client doesn’t only come to you with wants, they will also have a long list of priorities they want fulfilled. However, here again the technical expert needs to weed out what priorities should be focused on and which can be left for later or even fall by the wayside. The client may not expect it, but they will be looking for informed suggestions from you so don’t disappoint. If there’s a simpler feature that can be developed faster and give a similar outcome, why not prioritize this? Give the recommendation, discuss the options and allow the client to decide. 

One final note should be made in regards to deafening silence. No one likes being seemingly ignored, i.e. left waiting for a reply. It’s vital to be responsive to the client at all times for all requests. Even if they ask a question that you cannot answer immediately, don’t make them wait days until you reply. Keep the lines of communication open and you will maintain a healthy, productive relationship built on a strong communication foundation throughout the development process and beyond!

Seng Kevin Yin
Kevin Yin Seng
Lead engineer
"Kevin is an entrepreneur and full-stack web / mobile software developer. In his own words, “I’m a geek at heart and love to learn about new technologies and ways to change the world!” He studied in China, but is originally from Cambodia and based in Phnom Penh. As he puts it, “I picked up my street hustling skills from my Chinese family and friends.” Professionally he has been a developer for 6 years, and since 2015 set up Flexitech, a software agency, with 3 friends. They focused on solving tough technical problems and delivering fast solutions."
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