So now that you have validated that great idea, your business structure and processes are set, technology selected, and investors secured to fund you, what’s next? In this article we will discuss some important steps we should take when starting-up and during a project to achieve more successful outcomes:
The steps are by no means exhaustive but capture important things to look out for if you intend to deliver a successful project:
- Select the right project partner: – this could be a vendor, consultant, contractor or a team of developers. The most important factors to consider when choosing are the partner’s level of expertise, track record, depth of understanding your brief, and terms and conditions they are offering. Use mystery shopping and reference checks to find out who they have worked with in the past and how well they treated or are treating their customers.
- Select the right technology: – The technology has to be scalable (capacity can easily be increased as more customers come on board), customizable (you can amend it easily if customer needs changes), and possess at least 80% of the important features you need right from the onset.“Technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories – Laurie Anderson”. Every solution today has some element of technology driving it so this is important to look out for.
- Select the right team: – a team of people with the right mix of skills, expertise, and autonomy is required to deliver an excellent project. Seek out people who are self-organizing and reading to learn. The right mix requires both character (a good work ethic) and competence (skills, knowledge, abilities).
- Seek legal counsel: – Let your lawyers vet all documents to be sure there are no hidden charges or clauses in your vendor agreements before you sign.
- Decide upfront what is important: – Apply MoSCoW prioritization technique i.e. Must Have, Should have, Could have etc. Build features that more value to your customer, satisfy key stakeholders e.g. regulators first, other features that suit your internal processes should come last.
- Think global not local: – don’t compare your product with local solutions, instead benchmark against global solutions. Build with a mindset that this product can serve customers all over the world because it can.
- Transparency:– encourage the team to be open when things are working or not. Inspect as regularly as possible and encourage transparency so that issues can be fixed on time before it escalates.
- Adopt Agile values: – agile principles and values can be applied to any type of project, product or even non-IT solutions. The Agile Manifesto and the Twelve Principles of Agile Software were the outcome of industry frustration in the 1990s with the enormous time lag between business requirements and the delivery of technology that answered those needs, which led to the cancelling of many projects. In 2001, a group of seventeen “thought leaders,”met at The Lodge, Snowbird ski resort in Utah and formulated the Agile Manifesto and the Twelve Principles (Smartsheet, 2021). The Manifesto reads thus:
“We are uncovering better ways of developing
software by doing it and helping others do it.
Through this work we have come to value:
“Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
Working software over comprehensive documentation
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
Responding to change over following a plan
“That is, while there is value in the items on
the right, we value the items on the left more.”
Image Courtesy: Knowledge Train UK
Agile encourages an iterative release of usable functionalities to customers early in the development process such that they begin to see results even if the solution is not fully completed. Clients naturally become an integral part of the work and this de-risk the project from customer rejection when it is fully completed.
- Create a feedback loop: – one of the twelve (12) principles of Agile states that ‘Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software’. Break down your activities into milestones which allow you to ‘ship-out’ a minimum viable solution (sample) to the customer and obtain feedback about what has been designed. You may not be able to access the end-user but focus groups closest to your customer type can be used for product sampling.
- Have a plan: – have an implementation plan and follow it but be ready to adapt to changes. According to Dwight Eisenhower, plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. The vision of your product and service is more important than the fine details of implementation.
Image Courtesy: Apptentive
- Inspect regularly: – Set goals for your project with specific timelines and hold everyone accountable to their own assignment. Benchmark your goals versus actual achievement at agreed milestones. Do this frequently so you can correct in case the project goes off course.
- Keep track of your costs:- remember you are a custodian of investor’s funds. Run the numbers regularly to be sure you have not over-spent. Establish total cost of ownership (development, subscription, implementation, technology infrastructure, human resources, and support) before you sign any agreement. You must monitor the budget, so you do not run out of funds before the project ends.
- Define clear objectives of your project/product– revenue, targets etc. How will you measure success? How will your investors measure it?
- Focus on customer needs – be ‘fanatical’ about meeting the needs of your customer. Define who they are andknow what they need.
- Keep track of market trends–be adaptive and ready to pivot across your market, sector, or industry in line with trends.
- Experiment – Build, test, release and improve. Keep the cycle going.
- Learn from failures…FAST
Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, Be authentic.
You don’t need permission, let passion fuel you!