As IT people, we look at the world logically; we know that if A follows B and B follows C then A must also follow C. We know that if the user wants to view the balance on an account, they better have the account number before viewing it. However, business people don’t seem to have that same view. We assume they aren’t interested, or that they’re illogical when they say “why do I have to enter the account number to view the account balance?”
The problem I find is usually one of language. For example, in the question above I figured out the business person wasn’t being ignorant of the need for an account number. They simply wanted to *scan* it, not *enter* it. To us IT people, there’s absolutely no difference how the number gets into the system, but to them that difference seemed so great they had to point it out that they never wanted to *enter* it again.
Yes, there are obstinate and stupid people out there, but not everyone with those questions is either. And the moment we respond to a question like the one above with a groan or a “duh!” comment, we do become condescending and anti-business. The best way to deal with these questions is to keep the dialog from degenerating. Rephrase the question, restate your problem with their assertion, and get them to confirm it again. Something such as “well, we need the account number before we can show the account balance, so where do you want us to get the account number from?”
Keep the discussion friendly, don’t get patronizing or condescending. Try hard to discover the real root of their issue. It’s critical to treat them like peers, and not talk down to them. Remember that they must bring some value to someone in the business, so try to respect that. And yes, sometimes it’s harder than others, and sometimes it’s just never, ever going to sink in. Try bringing in other people to moderate the discussion, or to bring alternate suggestions.