Too Much Information

Series: growth March 26, 2013

“So how long will this task take?” An innocent question from the client at a status meeting.

Your ears perk up.

“Well, we need to figure out whether to use serialization or use a join table. We are leaning towards another table, but there is that new feature hstore PostgreSQL extension that might be better.

But first, I need to refactor some of the code in the ReportService. There is an N+1 query going on and that class is getting really hairy. I think we should be pulling out some logic into a new class.

Once I have that taken care of, we need to figure out the best way to pull out the reports. It might be nice to use a sliding window range, but I don’t know if that will be necessary — there aren’t that many records so we could just pull them all at once.”

The client’s eyes glaze over. You can’t understand why they keep asking when it will be done.

Too much information and at the wrong level.

Communication between parties at different technical levels is a tricky subject. A project manager must communicate with a non-technical client. A developer must communicate with a less-technical project manager.

Unfortunately, knowing the appropriate level is an acquired skill.

You can try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes — think about their background and knowledge. It may help to refer to past communications to get a baseline on how in depth to go.

I tend to err on the side of too little information and adjust as needed. You can always offer to go further if the client wants more information. I find this preferable to getting too technical and losing the focus of the discussion.

“So how long will this task take?”, the client asks at a status meeting.

“Should be about 2 days, I need to do a bit of cleanup but I don’t anticipate any problems.”

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