How do you choose some one for a service? There will be answers, some of them quite detailed and some of them very superficial. One of the simplest rule of thumb i have come across is the orange juice test.
What is this Orange Juice Test? Question a service provider regarding the cost of a particular grade of service and notice their response. If their answer is detailed and justifies the cost, their service can be considered. If they are casual or not too detailed in their response, they are out of contention. The above in a nutshell or a glass is what Orange Juice Test is all about. :-)
I came across the Orange Juice Test in the book 'The Secrets of Consulting' by Gerald M Weinberg. This test gets mentioned by Weinberg's client when Weinberg asks how he was chosen for the current assignment.
Weinberg's client mentions that Weinberg was the only person to pass the Orange Juice Test and proceeds to explain in detail the test.
The story shared by Weinberg's client goes like this. Imagine you had to choose a site for an offsite event, accommodating 700 people. You check out a hotel and explain to the Banquet Manager that the company has the hallowed tradition of starting the day's event at 7 in the morning, with a toast o success, using Orange Juice.
And that each of the 700 employees must have a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.
And Freshly squeezed within two hours of actual serving.
The requirements are quite demanding with all the constraints and something that provides a serious problem for the service provider to address.
The only response worth serious consideration is 'we can do this - and this is how much it will cost'. Others are either fluffing to get the business or are not serious about their offer.
To quote from the book 'The orange juice test is named after one particular application of the test in which it is used to select a conference hotel. But it can be used for selecting any service'.
Even though this rule of thumb is very simple, it is very important and as always, has two perspectives that need to be considered, one of the recipient and another of the provider.
Service recipient perspective: A service recipient looks for some one who is knowledgeable about the request and shows enough signs of comprehension of the subject area/ domain. A provider who says that a request is not possible doesn't get the business. So is some one who says he/she/their organization will get it done, without getting in to the details. The person who is most likely to be given the business is some one who gets into the details and can quote a price and give reasons for the price. Of course giving details for the price quoted is not a guarantee to get the business, as the price may be too high for the service recipient.
Service provider perspective:This is about two things
#1 Knowing one's subject/domain well: The story may be about preparing fresh orange juice. But in real life, it is applicable for any work that we do. You the reader may be a developer, team lead, software engineer or a project manager. When some one asks whether an activity or a task can be done, you must be proficient enough about the subject to provide a correct response.
#2 Knowing the real cost and willing to quote the same: This is also about knowing the price of the service to be provided, being honest enough to quote it and also deliver the service provided at the cost promised. This strictly means no cheating ( doing the equivalent of promising fresh orange juice and delivering bottled juice or promising a large glass and delivering a small one). While people may think that quoting the actual cost will drive away prospective customers, truth is that genuine customers who require the service appreciate honest and transparent response.