by Julie May, CEO of bytes of knowledge (b:ok)
Too often, IT firms focus on creating a solution before understanding the problem. Without a clear understanding of the business challenge and who will be served and why, it’s nearly impossible for an IT firm to give you an honest idea of the risks or unintended consequences that may occur, and any proposed schedule, budget or resulting work will start off on the wrong foot.
On the other hand, you will also find that many IT firms believe it’s possible to plan every detail in advance. This “I can see the future” method of project planning leaves very little room for adjustment and typically results in rigid specifications that cost too much to develop, while also failing to reduce project uncertainty.Finding the right balance between planning too little and too much can be difficult.
To start your next technology project off on the right foot, here’s a five-point checklist for proper planning:
Focus on the “why” before tackling the “how.”
Make sure you and your IT firm share a clear understanding of the business problem you want technology to solve.
Acknowledge that you can’t see every possible detail in advance, and plan for contingencies
Know that it is a natural course of events for your business plan, and therefore your requirements, to evolve. You must be flexible in the face of the unexpected, and know you can continue to refine details along the way.
Check that the firm has business and technical experience in your industry.
Their experience doesn’t have to mirror your proposed project, but the firm should be able to demonstrate how their experience will help them provide you with an effective solution to your problem.
Look at similar work the firm has done for previous clients and ask specific questions.
It’s not necessary that they have worked on exactly the same project before, but they should be able to demonstrate how their experience will help them solve your business problem. This insight will allow you to better prepare for the expected budget and timeline.
Ask for references from the clients for whom the firm has done similar work.
You should ask for at least three references from clients for whom the firm has done similar work. Be sure to ask the references if the IT firm solved the problem they were asked to solve or if they wandered off track. Did they provide value to, refine, and contribute to your business strategy and technical model? Also ask how well they managed meeting deadlines and budgets.
Julie May is CEO of bytes of knowledge (b:ok), which she founded in 1995 with her husband, Charles. Together they have built b:ok into one of Nashville’s leading technology companies, providing digital media development and comprehensive IT services. This is Julie’s first of four guest columns on how why technology projects run over budget and past deadline and what you can do about it. Visit bytes of knowledge online at www.bytesofknowledge.com.