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My Reflections: A Smarter Approach

Having successfully navigated my first major brick wall, it wasn’t long before I was at another fork in the road. By this point I had done all I could to de-risk the project from a content creation perspective, had detailed at a higher level the structure of the modules and the functionality that each would contain and had some meaningful data from which to make decisions on the path forward from.

What became increasingly apparent was the way in which many of the web development people wanted to work didn’t fit with my own expectations. Many wanted a large amount of money upfront. Now I’m not saying that is wrong. Far from it but for me I had no idea what it would look like so considered it to a potentially costly risk to take especially when I wasn’t clear on the delivery requirement. Many of the providers that I spoke to were very keen to get involved and work with me but were largely suggesting a ‘build as we go’ approach which didn’t sit well with me. I had heard anecdote after anecdote where IT projects got out of control, often taking much longer and costing much more than originally proposed at the start. I didn’t want this to be my experience so wanted to approach it in a different way to ensure that my financial risk was limited.

The approach I decided on in the end with my preferred web and software developer was to spend a fixed amount on producing the graphical look of every type of page that would be needed for the platform that was now known as Profit Pod (POD stands for Profit On Demand). It would involve designing the pages on ‘paper’ only with not one bit of code would be produced. This was about completing a detailed planning exercise where at the end of it I would have the entire user interface design completed for web, mobile and tablets together with a full technical specification document from which a full cost and timeline could be developed.

This also meant that I made my first real financial commitment to the project, which was an important major step. The reality was that I wouldn’t have anything to show beyond the design document and the full technical specification document at the end of the process. I wouldn’t have any physical such as a website to show for it but I figured by going through the detailed exercise, I would know one way or another whether it had the makings of something big here or not and it would crystallise my high level thinking in exacting detail.

The financial commitment needed for this scoping stage, meant that I was backing my idea and taking decisive action to see if it had legs or not. The important thing at the time was that I wasn’t emotionally tied to the outcome. If the end result proved to be a rubbish platform, then I would be prepared to discard the idea and walk away from it. But should it be successfully concluded, the preparation and planning now would potentially save tens of thousands in investment later on because it would be clear precisely what would need to be built and what it should look like allowing for the project to be undertaken on a fixed price basis. A large chunk of the surprise risk that comes with typical approaches to web development would be removed. I was determined to be SMART with my approach here.

The scoping stage itself took 6 months in total ( 2 months longer than expected) but the extra time spent meant that it far exceeded my expectations and still cost the same amount because it was fixed price. The design team and I methodically worked our way through the user flow step by step ensuring that all the visual design was exactly right and consistent throughout the entire site. It was an arduous process of iteration with the designers involving between 3 to 5 Skype calls a week. At times, I felt like it would never end but the final result far exceeded my expectations. I was thrilled with the outcome.

Also, the power of doing this unearthed a number of new products that I hadn’t originally envisioned all based on what would best support the user at that point on their journey through the platform. It also enabled me to consolidate and incorporate all of the valuable tools and products I had previously created into one consolidated, coordinated and turbo charged solution.

I now had a 70+ pages design PDF in place for web, mobile and IPad/tablet together with a 45 page technical specification document, I was now ready to get customer feedback on what I had planned…

Profit Pod Mobile Responsive

Next Instalment To Come: My Reflections: The Feedback Loop

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