So your project is going along well. You’ve worked with a developer to establish the feature list of each page of a site. (With Quadshot, if you’re lucky.)
Then just as you are about ready to launch the site, suddenly it strikes…
[cue scary and intense music now]
FEATURE CREEP! Run!!!
Ok, so imagine you have been contracted to build a house. The project is almost done, and the home owner says, “Oh, I’d like a circular staircase in the back corner of the house instead of the straight near the front door. I’d also like Central Air Conditioning installed. That’s not too hard, right?”
At these moments it is often beneficial if there are no power tools present.
Feature Creep kills more project timelines than anything else, except perhaps bad Quality Assurance. (that’s for another post)
There are a few ways we at Quadshot have learned to avoid these circumstances that devour time and money and we’ll share them with you right here.
How To Avoid Feature Creeps
1. Have a formal specification and design sign-off
If the customer has a chance to be involved in the specifications, wireframes and design of a site we often consider that a good thing and welcome the input. To further that, having signatures on a paper or boxes checked on an electronic document themselves forces accountability.
Verbally saying yes is one thing. When someone has to sign, they really pay attention to what they are agreeing to.
By this simple action, extra attention and involvement is given by the stakeholders to the forthcoming procedures and developments. By adding your personal mark to a document the mind is focused on what is important, both for the present and the future.
2. Complete transparency to the development process
Customers that see a development site and have access to each day’s tasks are able to see things along the way and request adjustments. This helps the contractor ensure that the customer’s expectations are exactly met by reality.
This also puts a shared responsibility between the developer and the customer for the outcome.
3. Make change a formal process
We want the best for our customers and that means allowing the customer to be able to make good financial decisions. If a change will cost $180 or $2500, that’s a big difference and the customer has the right to know how much a change to their website will change their budget.
What we do is we have a Change Request Process and during our daily or weekly meetings on a project you simply review those Change Requests with how much that impacts project cost and timeline.
While customers have every right to change their mind, it isn’t fair to have that be the burden or cost put on the developer when this occurs. This is why an open line of communication is needed for every change and a happy transaction.
4. Decide what is Required and ‘Nice to have’
Henry Ford used to say, “People can have the Model T in any color – so long as it’s black.” We often say, “You can have any website you want, so long as you have the time and money”.
Anything that deviates from the original contract and project description also deviates the original estimate. During a project it is not uncommon for a customer to come up with several ideas to add to a site.
That tends to clarify what is important and what is a ‘nice to have’ for initial site launch. Unlike Henry Ford’s Model T, we live in the digital age and you can always add on to your website in the future.
5. Communicate Regularly (and don’t be afraid to Ask Questions)
Whether through a project tool (we use Basecamp) , Skype, screen sharing (we use join.me) or the good old telephone, communicating regularly throughout a project can stave off feature creep.
We have regular, set meetings with clients. The frequency of the meeting depends on the complexity of the project.
On this point, there is NO shame in asking questions from either side of the fence. It is a shame when a question isn’t asked.
By following these simple rules above you’ll probably find that your project stress will be much lower and success rate much higher.