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When we change the way we communicate
we change the society.
- Clay Shirky -

On the IT developer-customer partnership

Studying marketing and the customer commitment to the brand and working in an IT environment, I wondered lately what PHP solutions really consist in and what the customer-provider partnership was like in that field.

Did they understand each other well? Where did the main difficulties for the provider come from?

What impact did the increase of e-commerce and mobile application development have over PHP suppliers?

In order to know more about it, I went to Officience. There, I had the opportunity to meet 4 experts in PHP Solutions.

  • Mong Thu Huynh Nguyen, IT Business Manager

  • Tin Nguyen Thanh, Software development manager

  • Thao-Lan Nguyen Hoang, Business Analyst

  • Quang Hiên Trân, software developer

    From left to right : Quang Hiên, Tin, Mong Thu and Thao-Lan

    From left to right : Quang Hiên, Tin, Mong Thu and Thao-Lan

Here is what I learnt from them.

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First, a quick question to understand your IT profile. What is your favorite PHP solution and why?

Thao-Lan: WordPress, because it’s smooth to use. And the community is very large, so you can build a complete website just by using free modules.

Quang Hiên: Magento, a popular ecommerce solution which was built on Zend framework. It offers rich features, supports multi stores. The product types are flexible, easily built and you can custom your modules to fit your needs with precision.

Tin: Famous solutions are not always the most powerful ones. For example, Ez Publish can be much more useful than lots of platforms in the market. Though it is not a popular solution, it is a true powerful CMS. It has been designed for publishing online content at an enterprise scale and it offers a friendly and sensible back-end administration. It’s sometimes difficult to convince the customer to use it since he doesn’t know about it, but everytime we did, the project proved to be successful.

Mong Thu: Drupal, which is an open source professional CMS platform useful for individuals, business companies and non-profit organizations to build an extranet or intranet portal, website and e-commerce platforms. What I like the most about it? Its easy-to-use back office with the drop and drag feature. And interesting thing for people loving Symfony2: you can easily integrate your custom Symfony2 application with Drupal 8.

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Can you share with me a relevant experience you had with a customer? A project that was difficult or, on the contrary, surprisingly well-managed?

Thao-Lan: The first project I worked on as a Business Analyst was quite challenging. Our customer loved to change his requests at any moment. I remember once, I called him in IP Phone conference as usual for a progress report. Several changes had been done to the project the week before, so we only had time to finish the modifications and did not complete the new features. There were no reason for him to get upset and angry and yet he did, saying that we didn’t work at all. When facing such a situation, it’s really difficult for us to stay calm too. They don’t see us working, and most of the time they don’t realise how time-consuming their requests are. Luckily, I was able to mute the microphone before shouting! It was a stressful period, but finally we managed to work together as a team and achieved the project successfully.

Tin: I agree with Thao-Lan. I noticed there were many customers changing their minds as if they were selecting clothes in a shop. They should take into account that they are not alone and define their needs precisely before connecting with a supplier. Of course, we know that the roadmap may change while running the project. It’s normal, the client may have some new expectations considering his company’s development and the fast evolution of the market, yet sometimes it can be a real headache for us. That’s why we maximize interactions with customers so that we are able to anticipate requests and new needs. It makes it easier for us!

Mong-Thu: Based on my experience, I would say that working with non-technical customers is more difficult. You need to combine art & technique to turn the customer’s expectations into concrete features! I remember a couple of years ago, I received the following request from a customer: “I want to build up an ecommerce website, I have no specificities and failed with a former supplier which was cheap”. How did we make the project run and be successful? First, we gave him advice for his business: an open source Magento solution, combined with an hybrid method, would suit his expectations in the best way. Then we set a scrum-waterfall solution to make his products frequently visible. And when the project was over, for a few months we made sure the customer was fully satisfied with the result.

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Would you have something to say to the customers that you never dared say before? Something that customers never understand?

Thao-Lan: I wish the customer understood that you can do a lot of things, like high-tech features, but with enough given time. Microsoft Word was not built in a day! If we could do so, we would have outperformed Google already.

Quang Hiên: I would like to insist on that too: “Nothing is impossible but we need more time”.

Mong Thu: There is a proverb in Vietnamese that says: “Ngon, bổ, nhưng không rẻ”, which means “High quality, but not cheap” regarding business, technical and commercial solutions. This is what it takes if you really want your project to be valuable and the developers behind it to work in good conditions.  Customers should not forget that we thrive to be not only a provider, but also a long-lasting partner. At Officience, we always focus on engagement, transparency and caring about both the customer and our staff.

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What do you think are the next trends in e-commerce and PHP solutions?

Thao-Lan: As soon as we arouse trust between end users and e-shops, I believe we will have all sorts of e-commerce services online. And the support services (transportation, banking…) will grow along with it. E-commerce will quickly replace traditional commerce thanks to the convenience, safety and rapidity of its use. In a developer’s point of view, I hope many more open up opportunities will grow out of this!

Quang Hiên: Regarding the trustful relationship between end users and e-shops, I assume we can say one of the next trends will be shopping on Facebook. It doesn’t ask too much IT knowledge, and Facebook has already entered the e-commerce field with its advertising strategy while keeping a feeling of trust and credibility among its users. I won’t be surprised if you can shop on Facebook in the future.

Mong Thu: I bet on mcommerce, or mobile shopping, for the next trends. The numerous platforms existing, the increasing of our skills in 3G technologies and the research on how to make the buying journey smoother will turn shopping into a reflex for the consumer. It’s not only about technical performance, but also about behaviour.

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What makes a Vietnamese developer amazing?

Tin: “I have a challenging project but you need to learn quickly a new programming language to work”. If you  say that to a Vietnamese developer, most of the time you can get amazing results!

Mong Thu: I would say that they are young, dynamic, intelligent and hard working.

Quang Hiên: Vietnamese developers don’t only code because it’s their job. They code because they want to follow the trend. The government is putting more and more money in tech education in order to become a center of high-skilled IT workers, and so far it has been working pretty well. Vietnamese industries get good results and tend to be more and more visible in the next decade.

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