We're helping out a client improve its day-to-day processes by finding flaws in its internal controls and recommending improvements. It's a small team, and I'm one of them. It's headed by a single person, who's a qualified auditor. The rest of us are interns.

At the beginning of audit of a new department, we usually have a discussion with the departmental head to learn about its process flow. In this particular instance, I went for the discussion alone.

During this discussion, the departmental head, a lady, happened to mention a few activities which I thought could well be automated. I asked her if there were more like that. She mentioned another such instance, where they had to extract information from their internal server. The software they were provided with doesn't have the option to export to a more useful format, say, an Excel file.

So, I told her that we could help them automate such tasks if it were possible. She was more than happy to let us do that.

Later that afternoon, while I was filling in my senior on our discussion, I told him about their problem, and asked him if it'd be okay for us to provide them with that solution. He denied and said that we'll consider that if they ask us on their own.

I didn't tell him that I already kind of promised that lady that we had a solution for their problem. I didn't exactly make a promise. I just let her know that the task could be automated.

I don't see any harm in providing them the solution to automate. So that's what I feel is the right thing to do. How do I convince him to do that?

Note: The solution itself is not that big of a deal. It's a small Python script that saves a webpage and converts into Excel format, and I don't have to invest much time, either. We're already using several scripts for gathering data for our work purposes. I'll just have take one of them and modify a few lines at most.

  • 1
    So your client wants a service for free. You boss wants her to pay for it. Sounds reasonable. Welcome to the business world. Nothing is free, nor should it be. The time it takes or simplicity is irrelevant. The below posters have provided you many things that could go wrong here. What does your boss have to gain here? A happy customer? Were they not already happy with your services?
    – coinbird
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 19:35

2 Answers 2


Your senior already gave you the answer:

He denied and said that we'll consider that if they ask us on their own.

Just relay that to the client:

Hey, I talked with my senior and he said we'll have to do this through more official channels. You'll have to request this feature from him yourself. I can help you draft up a description, if you like.

  • 30
    @Mahesh There is more to it than you think. If you provide software, you need to have some sort of contract. There are concerns about ownership of code, maintenance, support, licensing, and in the end it will have to be paid for ... What you consider "a little favor" could well stay a little favor between two friends. In a professional setting, though - it can blow up rather quickly.
    – Fildor
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 13:56
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    @Mahesh your senior isn't unwilling, he just wants to make the request official.
    – Pieter B
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 14:21
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    @PieterB, yeah, he wants it to be an official request. But he's not as bothered about it as much as I am. Anyway, asking that lady to make an official request does seem to be the better idea here. Thanks.
    – user7118
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 14:26
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    I was about to make an entire answer stressing the point @Fildor made -- Early in my career I'd get excited about a seemingly simple task that could make a big difference to a client. If it was just between a couple of friends then sure, go for it. It's not. You're representing your company in a business relationship with another. If you deliver software of any sort then Fildor's concerns are very real. Whose problem is it if their website changes a little bit and they need the script modified? Who's responsible if it breaks something, or reports an incorrect value that costs them money?
    – A C
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 20:11
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    @Mahesh Careful that you don't go behind your boss's back here. If he actually doesn't want to do it at all and finds out you helped the client make the request, that will be seen as working to undermine his decision (and such a view is not entirely unjustified). You may want to clarify with him explicitly before approaching the client about making it formal.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Oct 13, 2017 at 20:51

As a project manager I'd want anything that my team did to be traceable to requests from the client. That way any work goes through whatever process my team would use to insure both the the code met the requirements and that the code quality met my team's requirements.

Two major problems with you surreptitiously do some coding. The major problem is that the team doesn't get credit for the improvement. Second if it breaks, then the team gets a huge black eye because we broke something that we weren't even supposed to be working on.

So Erik is right. Have the lady submit a formal request to do the work.

  • Please correct me if I'm wrong. You seem to have understood it the wrong way. I'm not saying I'll give them the code despite my senior's denial. My question was how I should interact with my senior to get him to do it. I don't want any personal credit. I want this to be attributed to the team.
    – user7118
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 14:09
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    I edit my answer to add a last sentence. So if you're auditing then list the things that you can automate, and estimate the work to do the automation. The client then selects the things to work on.
    – MaxW
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 14:20
  • That seems fair enough. I'll consider it. Thanks for your inputs.
    – user7118
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 14:26

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