You are a typical IT person. Almost no one thanks you for the problems you prevented, for the data incidents which did not occur, or for the system failures which did not escalate to the attention of your users. You know you are doing a good job, and your boss even tells you that occasionally, so you are OK.
Now, put yourself in the shoes of the business person whom you asked for help. You invited this person into a conference room to pick his/her brain on the next generation of your product or you sat with the person for an hour demonstrating the next version of your software. At the end of either of these encounters, the person is an hour older, but has no idea if he/she was helpful.
Part of your job is to reinforce the value of the time the person spent with you.
That reinforcement starts with a thank you and a summary of what you learned during your time together. An email is acceptable if the person spent a couple of hours with you. For longer investments of time, think about something like a project team coffee mug or something a little more interesting. It is truly the thought that counts here, but you can’t fake your sincerity.
You should plan to follow up with the status of the project and how the person’s feedback was used, assuming the person is interested. A public acknowledgment of that person’s help would be nice too.
As the project work wraps up, you should close the loop with the person who helped you by offering an update on the final results and how the person’s feedback made a difference.
Sincerity matters here too, so don’t overstate a person’s contribution and have him/her think you are engaging in brown-nosing or worse. But, for those people who truly were helpful, let them know.
To all those people who are currently helping me on various projects, thank you! You know who you are, and that is the point of this note.