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Translating Customer Needs into Projects - Website Developer

Monday, March 24, 2014/Categories: computer-programmers

Behind almost every web site development or graphic design project is a set of business requirements. The hard part is making sure that the site you build meets those business needs, 100 percent.

It’s easy for a web site developer or designer to listen to what the clients say they want for their site. But often, what they’retelling you and what you think they’re sayingcan be two different things. And when your completed project falls short of the mark, you will be the one to blame, leaving you wide open for an errors and omissions lawsuit.

With any project involvingweb development and design, E&O lawsuits are always a risk. There are many opportunities for professional liability claims when designing and implementing a web site project. If your client claims that you didn’t do what they asked you to, that claim could escalate into a lawsuit. And if that happens, it could cost you a lot of time and money, especially if you don’t have the rightweb design insurancecoverage to protect you from liability.

Even if you don’t end up being sued, your goal is always to get the job done right the first time. Doing so preserves your hard-earned business reputation, andprevents costly re-work.

Good Project Management Means Good Risk Management

So, as web developer or graphic designer, what’s the best way to translate a customer’s business needs into a solution that solves the customer’s problems? The answer lies in strategic project management. Companies with careless project management practices – or none at all – are far more likely to have professional liability claims than those that usean established project management process. In other words, good project management is good risk management, and a good way to avoid having to fall back on your web devllopment business’s E&O insurance.

According to project management expert Karl Wiegers, one of the most important early project management steps involvescarefully defining a project’s vision and scope. Before you begin any web site development project, be sure to clearly define:

  • Business requirements: This is the foundation and reference for all detailed requirements development. You should gather business requirements from the customer or development organization’s senior management, an executive sponsor, a project visionary, product management, the marketing department, or others who have a clear sense of why the development project is being done and the value it will bring to the business and customers.
  • Vision of the solution: It’s important to clarify the long-term vision for the site to be built, as this will provide the context for making decisions throughout the course of site development. Note: this vision statementis not the place for detailed functional requirements or project planning information.
  • Scope and limitations: Carefully define the concept and range of the proposed web site solution, as well as what will not be included in the end product. Clarifying the scope and limitations helps to establish realistic expectations of the many stakeholders. It also provides a frame of reference against which the team can evaluate proposed features and requirements changes.
  • Business context:  Summarize some of the business issues surrounding the project, such as profiles of major customer categories, assumptions that went into the site concept, and the client’s management priorities for the new site.

To be sure you’ve got all your bases covered, you might want to try following an established project initiation and management process. See the free downloads below for a Project Vision and Scope Template you can adapt for use with your own projects.

10 Requirement Traps to Avoid

As Wiegers points out, successful IT and web development projects are built on a foundation of well-understood requirements. Even so, many web site developers tend to get caught in traps that prevent them from effectively collecting, documenting or managing project requirements. There are several symptoms that indicate you might be getting caught in a "requirement trap":

  • Confusion about what a requirement is
  • Lack of customer participation
  • Vague or ambiguous requirements
  • Requirements that aren’t prioritized
  • Site functionality that no one uses
  • Analysis paralysis
  • Scope creep: the project parameters keep shifting
  • Inadequate requirements change process
  • Insufficient change impact analysis
  • Inadequate requirements version control

Speak Your Customer’s Language

As you develop your vision and scope document, strive to ensure that you and your client are speaking the same language. To reduce professional liability, web site developers and designers should keep in mind that although they understand the technologybackward and forward, their customer probably doesn’t. If your project documents are too technical, your client might be left to assume that what you’re doing is going to meet its business need, when you may actually be off the mark.

Should that happen, you could be deep into site development beforeany disconnect becomes apparent, and that’s when you’ll experience “scope creep.” Meeting the client’s need is suddenly going to take more time and cost more than you and your client expected. And that means trouble, because this is the point when some customers stop payment and talk to a lawyer.

By clearly outlining a development project's vision and scope, and carefully documenting project requirements, you can create a thorough project proposal that will meet the business needs, keep costs within budget, and reduce the risk that you’ll end up facing an E&O lawsuit. The bottom line: for web site developers and designers, professional liability reduction and risk management go hand-in-hand with careful project management.

Free IT Project Management Tools and Templates:

View and download free tools and templates.

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