It's an exciting time to revisit the web for many commercial and non-profit organizations all over the country. With the advent of new and exciting technologies plus the mass adoption of mobile web it's apparent to most people that it's time to circle back and reinvent themselves on the web. With this exciting growth and more capabilities than ever before our team finds ourselves reviewing requests for work that are extremely detailed in applying processes not just for managing the web but completing the loop on critical business processes.
The most common reasons for doing a new project are a fresh design for consumer/member confidence, connecting disparate systems to work seamlessly, and advanced controls for self managment. There are a three major points that are going to help you ensure a quality product at the end of your process and avoid that bubble pop of excitement that usually shows itself in either an over budget project, extended timelines, or a buggy production release.
Typically a scope is created by the client that has an overview of the project's purpose so that a qualified web firm can create estimations. This typically resembles a general description sometimes accompanied by a use case for how they'd like it to work. Depending on the size of your project you need to be wary of anyone that would provide a firm fixed price on your project without understanding the details of what you have today. For instance, if your request for proposal (RFP) contains functionality that involves enterprise resource planning (ERP) it's unlikely that individuals would be able to give you a fixed dollar amount for your project. An easy example of a complicated process that we see regularly is, "The system should allow for clients to manage their accounts, bills, and payments online. It should also seamlessly communicate with our financial systems to ensure integrity of data."
Let me tell you that we agree this adds significant value to any company automating key processes and helping clients relieve pressure from their administrative team. However, the working tentacles for an endeavor like this involves finance processes, business processes, technology API's, security, and much more. This is only a single feature request out of probably the dozens provided in the RFP you've sent out.
A good web firm is going to recommend a budget and within that include a phase called "Discovery". This is to understand the functionality request listed above by reviewing your internal systems, talking to stake holders, and generating a high value plan. By entering a discovery process you should come out the other side with a well written document that entails the complete understanding of your full project with very pointed details and the estimated time/cost for a full deployment. From their you can decide which features are the most important.
From our experience the vast majority of projects require input and team effort from not just the web firm doing the work but from the clients themselves. The major initiative typically represents your company online and the features being deployed are meant to serve your work force for years to come. Without your valued input during the key cycles of the project and regular discussions, you can be assured the work product you receive may have substantial revisions required delaying the launch of your project or will not meet the expectations of the company.
This is easliy avoided by creating a point of contact (POC) that's responsible for communicating with the web firm during your project. This person should be well versed in your business and also the objectives you hope to accomplish with the project.
Have you ever been to a website that just feels rock solid? There is something you can't put your finger on that makes it better than all the rest and you don't know what that something is?
That something is the attention to detail that was taken to ensure that every scenario, every browser, and every consideration was weighed into the development of the website. That kind of attention and seamless work doesn't come in rushing a project along. Unfortunately in the real world we don't have an unlimited amount of time to get work completed. If the project will take longer to deploy than is acceptable, a great strategy for ensuring a high quality product is to take the information from the discovery phase and the first set of feature items most important to launching the website and focus on them.
Doing a few things well is better than doing a bunch of things not so well. It's those perfect processes that help you to grow your online properties in a positive way making them more engaging to your visitors.
Your project scope is just the beginning of getting relevant and making the web a viable tool for you moving forward. It will take continued dedication and an investment in order to take advantage of new advancements on the web that come out on a regular basis. This is particularly true with the advent of mobile websites and applications. Set aside a set amount of money from your annual budget for monthly maintenance, patching, and feature enhancements to ensure that your not six months out from being commoditized by your closest competitor.
If you're looking to get into a web project, it's important to understand these four major items, as they are founded on the principles of quality work and will ensure that you get the highest return on investment for your web initiatives. As always we're here to help and some of our case studies show the serious impact you can make when you create a focused dedication to the web.