by CodeScientists Sebastian Kessel & Trieste LaPorte


Most of us who’ve been in this business for a while know that consulting is not easy. Challenges range from personality conflicts to resourcing issues to technology concerns, and more. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome is when a Client decides to self-censor and withhold information from you because they think that what they want is impossible or that the platform can’t do it.

An X-Y Problem

In our business, we have a term that applies to situations like this. We call it an “X-Y Problem.” Essentially, what a Consultant hears is the Client’s perceived needs, not the real ones. Even though sometimes this manifests as a request that sounds “off” or it doesn’t quite match with the rest of the solution, it often simply goes unnoticed and, therefore, unchallenged by Consultants. This leads to the Client getting a good solution, but not the best solution. More often than not, the Client or the Consultant will notice the mismatch late in the process. At that point, either a lot of money is spent remediating the problem, or it is too late to address it and we all rue the missed opportunity.

Shoot for the Stars

Because of this phenomenon’s prevalence, one of the first things I tell my Clients is a simple statement. It goes like this:

I want you to give me your absolutely ideal solution. Don’t worry about what you think the platform can or cannot do. Shoot for the stars and tell me what you want to achieve, in your wildest dreams. I will then work with you on compromising where we can’t achieve your wishes, but you’ll be surprised about what we actually can do.”

Nobody wants to open a relationship with a Client by saying things like, “we can’t do this” or “let’s change that behavior.” We love to say “yes” to a Client. But, in all honesty, we are serving them better by removing those mental boundaries and working with them to get to the best possible solution.

Take this Example

I worked with a non-profit organization whose challenges involved attracting new members. They requested a report of all their members, sorted by zip code, so they could analyze where their members lived and better target their marketing. I suggested overlaying all their addresses as pins on a map, to give them a better visual impact. The response was “You can do that?! That would be incredible.” We ended up leveraging the same map to allow the organization to pair elderly members who needed rides with other members who lived nearby and could transport them. The Client saved thousands in their marketing AND it started providing a service they couldn’t provide before. And it almost didn’t happen.

The Essence of an Agile User Story

This all boils down to Agile user story ingredients:

  • Present the who the user is
  • The action the user wants to take
  • The business reason why or desired outcome to achieve

Include the frontline people in the design, and allow the delivery team to develop an optimum solution. Leverage the collective brains of your team to surpass what you thought possible.


Obviously, it may take some iterations to evolve the solution to what the initial discussion outlined, but having a clear idea of the Client’s visions and hopes will then give us Consultants a much better understanding of what we need to eventually achieve and will help align us to what the Client ultimately needs.

Using Agile methodology for development, our team is able to accelerate your timeline by addressing potential issues as they arise. Short sprints that not only deliver value but get your product into customer hands as quickly as possible for feedback. So in the end, you not only have an app your customers love, but the knowledge you need and a team you trust to help throughout the lifetime of your product. How can we help you?