This article will tell about nine steps to become an enemy of your IT contractor and bring your IT project to failure. The customer, who works with an IT company, or business department, working with its internal IT department, originally are on the same side of the fence. Business wants to improve its efficiency or performance and reduce costs through IT. The IT industry representatives want to pass the project, which will be a nice addition to their “our cases” page, and get the money. All of them seem to be in the same boat and should be happy.
The problems in this perfect world begin when the two sides find themselves on opposite sides of the barricades, because at some point something has not been taken into account. The customer becomes unhappy with the poor performance of the executor. The outsourcing provider believes that it is the mistake made by the customer. Former partners acquire different interests, and the project turns into a great sadness.
Below we have gathered nine typical problems encountered when implementing IT projects, and nine ways to address them based on the experience of actual project managers.
1. “Wow, so cheap! Probably you, guys, are the most honest”
Too low price at the initial stage should at least alert the customer. Too high price – too. As a general rule, if the cost of work is too low – the contractor did not consider something in the price assessment.
Solution: the price must be justified. Pricing should be transparent to the customer. Remember that price is important when you choose an outsourcing provider, but should not be the determining factor. You can select two or three IT providers based on references and good portfolio, and use then the price factor for the final selection.
2. “We want warm green. Warmer. The warmest”
During the development the customer and the contractor often “get stuck” in details. Going too much into details slows down the development, chews up budget and time. This leads to the fact that the team mills about, time is running out, the budget is used.
Solution: perhaps the warmth of the button is not so vitally important for the user? It often turns out that the detail stopping the project as a result will be not even visible for the user. A tip from our creative PMs: do the project as an artist paints a picture – rough strokes, drawing first the background and basic elements, and painting in the details later.
3. “Do as you wish and then we will see”
Insufficient interaction of IT-employees with business representatives. The customer “buys off” with the money, leaving everything at the whim of the outsourcing provider, and when the system is ready – sends tons of comments. IT-guys and business seem to be moving in the same orbit with the same goals, but do not meet each other. At the same time inside there is a project with its goals and objectives known only by the business, and the business shall direct it.
Solution: get involved in the project, but do not become a member of the IT team. The interaction of customers and service provider is one of three key success factors, according to the CHAOS Manifesto report by The Standish Group.
4. “Here is some SAP data, integrate them somewhere”
Insufficiently clear statement of requirements in the specification. Another extreme situation – too detailed development of specification. It takes too much time and money of the customer.
Solution: no fanaticism. The specification should be broad enough to ensure that the IT company could think out the missing details and get started. Here customer involvement is also important. It is also possible to hire/involve analyst for specification development.
5. “I was thinking a bit and now changed my mind”
Constant changes of specification. IT company implements the customer’s vision in the project, but in the process the customer understands that everything so beautifully described in the specification will not satisfy him. Or something is not considered. “And this is normal,” – said all together our PMs.
If an IT company in advance does not foresee changes of the specification in the process of work, the customer will not be happy because what he gets is not what he wants. Moreover, if one changes specification or works separately from it, the project team will be demotivated and will reply “it is impossible” to any request from the customer to change already developed functions.
Solution: to find out in advance if an IT company is ready to work by a flexible methodology allowing changing the requirements at any stage of work.
6. “It was me who ordered this?”
Long period between the start of work and the first/each subsequent delivery of the product. IT company accepts specification, develops something and comes back after three or four months. Thus so called “dead zones” occur between the start of the project and the first delivery when the customer has no idea what is happening on the project. In this case, he can only trust and wait till the first product delivery, receiving then first problems with the first delivery. Because it can well-developed, but it is not anymore what the client needs.
Solution: the most frequent and early deliveries. The product may look not so sexy yet, but you can already see the working functional and approve further steps.
7. “The board of directors decided…”
Unrealistic deadlines by the customer due to “political decisions” – the board of directors determines that the product must be launched in a month. It is a trap for everybody. Even if you invest million dollars in a project, “nine women can’t make a baby in a month”. This situation and the ways to solve were described by Fred Brooks in his “The Mythical Man-Month”.
Solution: fix time and budget, then you can avoid the trap when the budget is exceeded, time is out, and the desired functionality is not yet developed. Develop incrementally only the most needed functionality.
8. “We will pay for this system sharp ten thousand”
Fixed price for the project. Everybody measures project by budget and that is normal. The customer always requires the exact amount, but at an early stage it can be difficult for IT companies to assess exactly the scope of work. Therefore, the outsourcing providers are overbudgeting to cover all risks and include them in the project, which results in high costs for the customer. If the contractor had made a mistake in the assessment, even over evaluated budget will be exceeded.
Solution: get away from the fixed price and use module price breakdown, estimating separately each module of the system, or use flexible methodology, breaking cost of work by iterations.
9. “Well, this is a system to solve something there”
Unclear goals and objectives of the product for the development team. This point comes last, because its importance is not obvious. However, Softengi’s experience shows that this point should be first and foremost. The team often does not get a clear description of the project importance, its goals and objectives. The project starts as “dry” specification, functional description and the contractor does not fully understand the importance of the project.
Solution: get involved in the project at least at the initial stage and explain the team the importance of the system for the society/company.
It is not necessary to see an outsourcing provider or your IT department as chairwarmers dreaming only to exceed the budget. With properly aligned relationship, the outsourcing company will become a partner interested in a positive result, no less than you. The customer from his side should always be involved in the project, understand what he eventually wants to get, not afraid to ask questions, and sometimes still, listening to the advice of professionals.
About the author: Olga Yatsyna is a public relations and Internet marketing professional, specializing in IT field. After holding a degree in translation, she has been working as a journalist and translator in online European magazine and a contributor in IT-related media. Currently she is working as Public Relations & Marketing Manager at a software development company in CEE.
This article was published in the “The Future Edition” of the Outsourcing Journal (Q4/14). You can download this edition free of charge via the website of the German Outsourcing Association (free membership required): https://www.outsourcing-verband.org/outsourcing-journal-special-editions/