A close dialogue is key to achieving the best results
Software developer Jakob Kjøller is convinced that the path to success is an ongoing and close dialogue with the clients who will reap the benefits of his efforts. A vital part of his work as a consultant is to provide the cleanest code possible, allowing others to easily take over once he concludes his assignment.
In his work as an IT consultant and developer for ProData Consult, Jakob Kjøller has a strong focus on the importance of a close dialogue with the end-users at the customer, who will benefit from his work, and thus ultimately experience a more comfortable everyday life.
Currently, he is putting the final touches on a major self-service solution for PensionDanmark, which makes it faster and easier for the company's customers to book an appointment with a physiotherapist, chiropractor or similar treatment options that are included in the company's health insurance.
Jakob Kjøller is not unfamiliar with a situation where software development tasks offered via ProData Consult grow larger, because customers notice an advantage in the way he approaches his tasks. It was the same case during his previous contract at a major bank, where the collaboration continued for three years. Now, the current contract with PensionDanmark has also increased in scope.
"Both at the bank and now at PensionDanmark, my tasks began with a short contract period of a few months, but in both cases, they have been expanded and extended repeatedly," he says.
The focal point of Jakob Kjøller's work - as well as a consultant and former staff employee in various jobs - is web development. This, of course, reflects a development where still more of all the software that companies themselves use, or make available to their customers, is operated via a web interface. But more than 20 years of experience, has given him a good insight into most programming disciplines over the years.
Ready to take responsibility and team lead
His broad experience also provides him with confidence that influences how he handles his job.
"I feel that customers like the way I approach my job. I like entering a discussion about how a certain task should be solved, and I do not refrain from giving my opinion. Regardless of whether I have a different view than the customer on how a task can be solved," says Jakob Kjøller.
At the same time, Jakob Kjøller also admits that he is happy to take responsibility and lead a project in collaboration with consultant colleagues who are also involved in the project.
Even though Jakob Kjøller is not afraid to have an opinion about the contracts he enters into and the development tasks he undertakes, he emphasizes that he in no way has any ambitions of making himself indispensable.
Clean code has high value in delivery
That attitude strikes a chord discussing how clean and unambiguous the code is written.
Code can be written in many different ways, and ultimately give the same result. But even if the result is the same, there is still a lot to be said for how the code is written.
At some point, when a developer has to continue somebody else's work, it can be crucial how clean and rigorous the predecessor has been in his work, and whether he has been sloppy with his code.
"In my opinion, it is vital that the code is written clearly, legibly and unambiguously. It matters far more how readable the code is than whether it follows a specific programming language or framework," Jakob Kjøller says.
Essential without trying to be
He states that even if a certain development task in principle is completed, changing needs will often require adjustments to the work performed.
"As consultants and IT people, we are constantly in and out of codebases. So the work I am doing today, another developer will take over in a couple of weeks," he says.
It is important to not become indispensable to the client, but instead do the work so it speaks for itself, which in turn will make the client return.
"By not making myself indispensable, I end up becoming it anyway, because a lot of customers prefer my approach. I do not work to secure a continued contract, but to ensure that others can build upon the work that I have done, "says Jakob Kjøller.
In his bag of experience, he has also previously been responsible for Developer Operations (DevOps). At the bank he worked for, the result of Jakob Kjøller's efforts in this area was to form the basis for a new development environment, with associated software tools. More specifically, the work revolved around outsourcing several tasks to India.
Development environment for quick onboarding offshore consultants
"We had to onboard eight Indian software consultants. And as it takes a week to get such a development environment up and running, it is a rather costly process," says Jakob Kjøller.
He explains how he and his colleagues at the bank in Copenhagen set up the necessary scripts, which the Indian colleagues could then run on their machines, after which the machines were ready for use with Visual Studio.
"What used to last a week could now be done in a quarter of an hour," says Jakob Kjøller, who especially finds this type of task interesting, as it involves actual problem solutions. "One thing is to code to order based on a screenshot that shows a desired result, another option is to work your way to solutions and improvements of small or large obstacles. The latter way is what I am most passionate about," says Jakob Kjøller.
Since then, what Jakob Kjøller describes as the great journey towards Microsoft's cloud platform, Azure, has begun. A journey that many large companies have taken in recent years.
Integration process reduced from over an hour to ten minutes
Part of the story of smart and time-saving solutions is also a series of software tweaks, which Jakob Kjøller came up with a number of years ago.
"While working on a time registration system, which had to run up against another system in the public sector, we sat there with an integration process that took an hour and fifteen minutes to complete. The more data that was added, the heavier it became. Then I did a few experiments, took a few things apart and put them together in a different way. After which, we could run the process in less than ten minutes," says Jakob Kjøller.
During his current contract with PensionDanmark, Jakob Kjøller leads a small team, which forms one of a total of four tracks in a larger, overall project.
"I work together with two or three representatives of the business division, one internal software developer, in addition to two external freelance developers," says Jakob Kjøller.
He explains that the division into four tracks is largely due to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and where the track in which he himself is involved focuses on business data and not sensitive personal information.
Agile development is the optimal route
Jakob Kjøller's overall view on development tasks is that he prefers the agile way of working, where even small results are continuously tested for whether they work.
"Here we constantly have to, so to speak, taste the results in order to determine if they provide value," he says.
Jakob Kjøller admits that in recent years many companies have switched to more agile working methods in terms of IT development.
"But there are still a number of companies that, due to internal company policy, stick to large projects, waterfall models, etc.," he says.
Both personally and professionally, Jakob Kjøller thrives really well with his life as an independent freelance consultant, as he can take on the tasks he finds most interesting, and politely say no thanks to tasks that sound less attractive.
"In that way, I can concentrate on helping clients with the tasks they need to have solved, while avoiding less interesting but mandatory tasks that will always be part of a job as a staff employee," he says.
Quickly identifying with the client
Despite his title consultant, it is an important part of the full image of Jakob Kjøller and his changing tasks that he quickly identifies himself hundred percent with the company with which he enters into a contract.
"When I, like I am now, work for PensionDanmark, it is that company and the task I perform here that I identify with," says Jakob Kjøller.
At the same time, however, he states that he greatly appreciates the efforts that ProData Consult makes to match him and his competencies with interesting tasks for clients with needs within his expertise.
Also within that image is that in a normal situation, without Covid-19, he shows physically up at work in the company he works for, eats lunch with colleagues, attends meetings, social events and what else is part of life as a staff employee.
The commitment that he and his consultant colleagues perform in the tasks they undertake and the companies they work for also affects the companies' prioritization of physically present consultants in relation to nearshoring to Poland and other Eastern European countries, as well as offshoring to India and the Far East.
"When we as consultants sit right next to the company's own employees, who must reap the fruits of our work, it opens up for a completely different and much more direct dialogue about the task. It is a huge benefit for the company and its employees, and thus the end users of our work," he says.
Jakob Kjøller believes that in recent years this fact has resulted in a change in the perception that many companies have of various opportunities for consulting assistance in software development.
IT consultant Jakob Kjøller
With more than 20 years of experience, Jakob Kjøller has a good knowledge of most disciplines within software development. His special strength lies in web development, which he has, for the most part, dealt with, both in previous jobs and in his current role as a self-employed consultant.
Although he has registered with several different consultancies, in practice it is ProData Consult that finds the projects and assignments he ends up taking on. ProData Consult is familiar with the consultants' strengths and competencies, and at the same time knows the customers and follow their needs, in order to match clients and consultants in the best possible way.
"ProData Consult is both faster than the competition, and also provides me with the most interesting contracts," he says.