Pre-Sales RE – Pt 2: Pre-Sales Challenges–The Risks

The pre-sales phase involves lots of challenges. This section focusses on the ones having the greatest impact on the activities of the contractor. Each one of them is assigned a name followed by a short description and the area of impact. However, this list claims not to be comprehensive:

  1. Limited time: the duration of the pre-sales phase is limited. Usually there is not enough time for a detailed requirements analysis which adds a large degree of uncertainty to the effort estimation and all dependent tasks. All activities are affected by this, thus they have to be very efficient and focused on the items necessary.
  2. Competition: the pre-sales phase is shared with competitors trying to close the deal on their end. The final offer and solution description has to point out how and why a solution is the right one for the customer.
  3. Pre-investment (time/money): the pre-sales phase takes place at the expense of the potential contractor. This investment is lost if a competitor closes the deal. All activities have to prove in advance that they are worth the effort.
  4. Bargaining/Negotiating: the pre-sales phase involves a great deal of negotiation. All negotiation activities must ensure that the contractor is not the loser in the end, i.e., the outcome of the deal must be acceptable for the contractor.
  5. Limited trust: the pre-sales phase not always but often stands at the beginning of a business relationship where there is only limited trust on both sides. If that is the case trust building activities have to be considered.
  6. Unknown organization and decision making: the pre-sales phase not always but often stands at the beginning of a business relationship where it is unclear how the customer’s organization and decision making works. Yet, talking to the wrong people equates to wasting time and risking the investment. If unknown, activities revealing this information have to be considered.
  7. Fragility: the pre-sales phase may be over before it started. It might also abort due to reasons that have nothing to do with the proposed solution, i.e., there are other factors than just technical details. Feelings and attitudes have the potential to break deals even if the solution offered ranks best of breed.
  8. Right time: especially when driven by the contractor, it needs to be determined if it is the right time for the prospective customer to be approached, otherwise the effort will be a waste of time and money.
  9. Seriousness of interest: not always but sometimes the customer’s interest might be fake just to acquire some external proficiency or feedback for free (or rather at the contractor’s expense). It must be possible to derive a discrepancy which urges him to find a solution. Seriousness is also underlined by providing a budget and staff that can make decisions.
  10. Buying is not selling: both are not one but two processes which need to be aligned. Disregarding the difference leads to wrong assumptions, e.g., that the customer is about to sign the contract only because the contractor reached the end of his selling process.

All of the above items require risk responses (i.e., actions to avoid, transfer, mitigate, or accept a given risk [1]). They also have in common that they allow defining exit criteria—certain levels at which the contractor ought to quit the pre-sales phase. This definition of exit criteria is another major difference to the regular “post-sales” requirements engineering.

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Christoph Oemig

Christoph Oemig

studierte Medieninformatik mit dem Schwerpunkt Mensch-Computer Interaktion und Betriebswirtschaft in Wedel und Furtwangen. Er ist IREB Certified Professional for Requirements Engineering (CPRE), IIBA Certfied Business Analysis Professional (CBAP), UXQB Certified Professional for Usability and User Experience (CPUX) und gestaltet als Lead Business Analyst bei der Deutschen Bank die anforderungstechnischen Belange im Bereich Cash und Selbstbedienung. Er ist Mitglied der Fachgruppe Requirements Engineering der Gesellschaft für Informatik (GI) sowie des Berufsverbandes der Deutschen Usability und User Experience Professionals (German UPA) und regelmäßig Referent auf Tagungen und Konferenzen zu Themen des Requirements Engineerings, der Business Analyse sowie dem Usability Engineering.
Christoph Oemig

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