Keeping your web project on time and on budget
We've all been through it. A project that we've worked on has blown its budget, its deadline or both.
Yes, the project looks nothing like what was outlined, the supplier is putting out their hand for more budget to fix it and everyone is at best, unhappy, at worst, furious and/or litigious.
And unfortunately an often well-meaning supplier tends to get the brunt of the blame.
Not that there's not some less than professional suppliers out there. But often "clients" can disrupt the project as much as the supplier because of their own inexperience, indecision, delays and "after the fact" changes... or sometimes all of the above.
Yes, the customer is always right. But if a supplier is going to lose money because the customer is moving the goalposts, or taking an age to approve a phase, or asking for improvements without offering more budget, there is only one way for the project to go. South.
So to ensure your web (or other) project comes in on time and on budget, here are some tips to make for a smooth and satisfying development procedure.
1. Create a conservative schedule and stick to it
If there is a set date for the release of the website or other project, then it's critical to have a project schedule for all phases of the development. Such a schedule needs to be realistic and make allowance for unforeseen problems.
Once you have agreed on the schedule, work hard to stick to it. I've seen many projects fall by the wayside because the client has not provided the approval or comments in time for the next phase – but still expect the project to finish on time. That is both unrealistic and unfair on all concerned, as extra pressure is put on the later phases.
2. Do as much 'on paper' as you can
Once a project hits the actual development phase, it's either impossible or at least very difficult to make a change to what has been agreed to "on paper" (the planning phase). And that means time and money.
So before a designer or programmer touches any code (goes into the development phase) or other production phase, ensure you are completely satisfied with the drafts, concept and prototypes that have been provided. If not, ensure you have deep pockets!
3. Avoid scope creep
I used to think scope creep was the weird guy who spent too long in the chemistry lab. But I later came to know exactly what it meant.
Scope creep is the name given to a specification that is never final – particularly when development is already under way.
The inherent problem with development is that it is being conducted using plans that were approved in the past – before a recent technology update or competitive action (or change of mind) occurred. So in an attempt to modify the end result so as to have the latest upon completion, a change is made to the specification – usually without the appropriate accompanying budget increase.
The result is a project that is never finished, and never delivers.
4. Avoid decision by committee
Committees are wonderful beasts that are an important part of many organisations. But unfortunately not every member of the committee is qualified to comment on the bit you need an informed opinion on.
I can't tell you how many times my teams have had to take a project in the completely wrong direction because a well meaning committee member insisted on an ultimately ill-informed change or directive.
The better way to operate is for the committee to help set the brief, then hand over to the most qualified person to coordinate on the organisation's behalf.
If committees must be involved, let them decide on something that they are actually qualified to decide on.
4. Don't get bogged down on the visual design
Web users fly through the internet like proverbial "gnats on heat". So if you think they are going to stop what they're doing to examine the artistry of your website design you have another thing coming.
The truth is that users take a "tick-box" approach to your website.
Does it look professional? Check. Is the design not offending me? Check. Can I find what I'm after? Check. And so on...
So spending undue time on the position or colour of a button or a clip image when it is essentially professional looking anyway is just an impost on everyone's time and money. Avoid it at all costs.
6. Keep some budget up your sleeve
Despite the best intentions of all concerned, projects invariably require some modification during the process. Instead of making the supplier spend more time achieving this than was originally budgeted, keep some budget up your sleeve and that way everyone is fairly compensated for their additional work – which leads to a better working relationship and end result.
7. Take your suppliers advice
I never cease to be astonished at how often a client will pay good money to hire an expert, then promptly fail to take their advice.
You wouldn't have hired the expert if they didn't have a great track record in the first place. So act on their advice and gain the benefit of their experience rather than debate something on speculation and hearsay and then find the expert was right in the first place.
Have you learned some insights from your project work? Or perhaps you've experience some of the problems outline above. Tell us about it below.
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Craig Reardon is a leading eBusiness educator and founder and director of independent web services firm The E Team which provide the gamut of ‘pre-built' website solutions, technologies and services to SMEs in Melbourne and beyond.