There are always a lot of ideas and initiatives in IT. But before developing a particular product, you must comprehensively evaluate it – is it worth the candle? Without a competent assessment of labor costs, efficiency and budget, any project is doomed, if not to failure, then to lengthy approvals and improvements.
I am Denis Bildanov, and I head iFellow’s Sales Support practice. I will tell you how to carry out each assessment stage to avoid typical mistakes and misunderstandings with the customer.
Choosing An Assessment Method
Three factors determine the final cost and terms of cooperation with customers:
- quality and completeness of incoming requirements,
- budget and deadline guidelines from the customer,
- experience of similar or similar projects.
Based on these data, you need to choose an assessment model. If there is a lot of data, an expert method is suitable. An internship or competence centre can give a real assessment of the project.
If many assumptions, restrictions, and uncertainty reign, relying on the PERT (program evaluation review technique) model is better. It will allow you to calculate the optimistic, realistic and pessimistic options and the average value, levelling all deviations. PERT helps to “synchronize watches” with the client.
For launching internal projects, a simplified evaluation method is quite acceptable since companies usually have a ready-made team, and employees participate in the evaluation together with the future project manager.
Let me give you an example: an employee of our company suggested developing an internal vacation portal. According to our project activity regulations, the project was initiated, and the estimates of terms and budgets were defended before the company’s management.
Getting Ready For Evaluation
Offer the customer to conduct a short stage of pre-project analysis. On it, you can study the details and focus on the main tasks. Such communication will help to establish interaction with the customer and manage his expectations.
Before starting a project, be sure to ask the client basic questions:
- What is the key problem to be solved?
- What goal is to be achieved?
- What is the time frame for the project to be completed?
- What budget is allocated?
This way, you can focus on the core functionality and release it when it’s ready.
- Study all customer requirements and information about him. This will give an understanding of what pitfalls may arise in the project.
- If more than the requirements is needed or fully understood, hold an additional meeting with the client. So you reduce the risks of the project.
- Calculate labor costs and determine the complexity of the project. Decompose tasks, and plan work and deadlines. Decide who will be included in the future project team and for which areas of work each participant will be responsible.
- Agree on the final terms and submit them to lawyers for verification. At this stage, you will receive a transparent and understandable commercial offer reflecting all aspects of customer cooperation.
- Recheck the calculation results. You must be 100% sure that the client has received clear terms of cooperation and that key tasks have been formulated for the team.
The timing of each stage may vary from project to project. We at iFellow focus on 3 working days from when the customer requests. The period may be extended if communication is delayed and more time is needed to work out the details.
What Is Important To Pay Attention To
- Whether the implementation matches the end goal of the client. The same expectations of both parties are the basis of mutually beneficial cooperation.
- Remember non-functional requirements. For example, questions about the predicted load on the final solution can greatly affect the understanding of the architecture of systems.
- Ask the customer for future product development plans. The product must be looked at strategically.
- Fault tolerance requirements for different classes of solutions. They can seriously affect the composition of the work.
- The duration of the process of implementation and testing of the project in real-time.
What Difficulties And Problems May Arise
Need to be accounted for. Create a list of additional questions for the customer to clarify all the details at the initial stage. Define common terminology for everyone so that you can speak the same language.
Human factor. Errors can occur at any stage, so it is imperative to recheck the estimate.
Need to understand the timing and boundaries of the project. Both are interpreted differently by everyone. Hold a briefing for all project participants to avoid disagreements and agree on possible assumptions, terms of reference, and requirements. In the final, everyone must clearly understand the tasks, deadlines and areas of responsibility.
Which IT Solutions To Use For Assessment
Tools are selected depending on the tasks and preferences of the team, so there is no single set. For some specialists, Microsoft Projects is enough for resource planning and visualization, while others prefer standard Excel. CRM systems are also often used.
We did not find a ready-made product for our needs, so we used our own Orion system.