It took you years to reach a stage where you could start realising your dreams. You worked hard, planned your savings, and kept abreast with latest trends and market situation. The layout, the designs, the colour shades, and every other minute detail have crossed your mind a zillion times. And before you know it, you meet an architect to get 3D layout and discuss other things. With the blueprint ready the team of builders start constructing the house. Over the course of this development there are changes to you design, which result in adjusting financials, layout, and time-lines. You take a call whether to go-ahead with initial plan or turn out your pockets for better modifications.
Now, analyse the situation, when being a manager or project sponsor, you are tasked to get a new website launched; perhaps a product, new function, or new section within the site. The success or failure of the project can be gauged at the beginning. Most of the times, it’s the client (the project provider) who is at fault but seldom agrees; while the vendor gets more blame than he should be entitled to. I could almost sense the thoughts running in your mind, “You know nothing Jon Snow!” (Taken from a popular tele-series Game of Thrones).
How could I blame the clients? How could I know what it’s like to engage such a big project?
To reach a level of a project sponsor, you would need years of experience or born rich. A project, very much like constructing a house, needs a blueprint; filled with thoughts of your own. It’s not like you walk in to architect’s office and say, “Build me a house”. And then, leave the rest to his better judgement to ask questions to you: like “How many floors”, “How many rooms”, “Who all will be living”, so on … It’s your car, you drive it the way you want; unless you don’t care about the maintenance cost, time or fuel. You, along with your team, should decide upon the basic needs, the purpose, and what you envision. Take scrambled notes, write on walls, or prepare documents; the importance of well documented requirements is nonpareil.
How often do you move away from these importance aspects and spend time on the nitty-gritty of things: like the time-lines, the costing, and other resources?
The discovery phase or the workshops to close on the scope of project is like the stepping stone. The more you sweat it out during this stage, the less the blood will spill towards the end. For a sponsor, the project should be close to heart like his own and his involvement plays a vital role towards its success. While for the vendor (and every member of his team), the project should be a platform to showcase their skills. Don’t just build a project, build a long term relationship: which will benefit you in times to come, whether directly (giving more business) or indirectly (referring others to you). Is it only the sponsor who would be using the site? Think about a banking site, which you might be associated with someday; wouldn’t you prefer a better version of it than what you might be inclined to give. Reasons may be aplenty, but always choose to do the right thing (for the client) than choosing the easy way out (for you).
Whether it’s a flexible approach (agile) or a more structured process (waterfall or v-model), there has to be an initial plan: a list of building blocks. Construct a house, one room (or a wall) at a time or have different teams working in parallel, but everyone should know what it has to look like, in the end. The process should be a hybrid one, a mix of both. The involvement of client at each step of the development is important. Consider a scenario where he would like to extend a room size or have an open kitchen, because he has seen it somewhere and liked the idea. Would it be easy for both parties to make changes once it’s under development or once the project is complete?
Being a client, you are at your best when you are able to steer the project with focus, clear and crisp guidance, and limited changes. While being a consultant, you are at you best when you present the pros and cons or suggest an alternative; and not when you start negotiating on the cost, time-lines, or if you could cater the change request.
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