More often than not, creative and marketing clients approach a digital partner with great ideas, but only partially formed ones. They know their business and they know what they want to achieve and why. They just lack the technical prowess to get there.
In a powerful meeting of minds between client and agency or technology partners, effective communication and collaboration are key to ensuring a solid specification and the right end result.
The Project Specification: A Two-Way Insurance Policy
A project specification is not just a nice-to-have. It acts as a two-way insurance policy that ensures both the client and the agency or digital partner understand each other’s requirements and intentions, and agree on the final result.
A good project specification serves to provide the following benefits:
- It breaks down the problem into manageable component parts
- It provides feedback and assurance to the client
- It serves as a parent document to subsequent project documents
- It helps to define testing and validation strategies
Hunting and Gathering
The initial project development phase is undoubtedly the most important — this is the process of gathering as much information as possible about the project requirements. Engaging with your digital partner early in the specification process will ensure that the right questions are asked on both sides, information is collated in a thorough and methodical way, and your requirements are clearly defined and understood. This information-gathering phase may include surveys, on site visits, interviews, and analysis of data.
From here, the initial outline of your specification can be created. At this stage your digital partner should work closely with you to ensure they understand the issues you wish to solve and that they fully understand your needs and that those needs can be achieved with the technology at hand.
The Right People at the Right Time
The reason why many development specifications fall down is because the right people were introduced at the wrong time. Whether it is on the client side or the partner side, anybody with a true stake in, or who will influence the successful delivery of, the project should be involved early on.
That’s why your digital partner should include their technical teams from the very start. Leveraging their knowledge, developers will not only ask the right questions, but participate and lead in the creation of a solid and accurate development specification. The result is a mutually agreed set of objectives and expectations based on technology needs and requirements, and no nasty surprises or panicked edits.
Translating Need into Function
Creative clients often have a firm idea of what they want their software to achieve. From advanced email automation to big data analysis, it is all possible. However, a development specification needs to clearly translate a customer’s requirements into functional terms. There was a time when creative brainstorming involved art direction, copywriting, editing and design. But developing? Nope.
Yet it is the developers who take the requirement and determine how to write the code to turn the dream into reality. They are the ones who have the knowledge that will make, break, or reinvent the idea completely. That said, a good digital partner should make it their top priority not to break things!
Putting the Solution Into Context
To ensure a smoother development process and that everybody understands the need for the product, it is important to put the solution being developed into context. For example, this may include the development platform being used, who will be using the product, and a rough development schedule. Details of how the finished product will be tested, validated, and distributed should also be included. An overview of the solution will also provide background for people wanting a general understanding before diving into the detail.
A good development specification should be transparent, detailed, and easy for anybody to pick up and understand. After all, if the CFO or CIO can’t understand the need for the product you could have a fight on your hands for budget.
Build the Plan and Stick to It (Well… as Much as Possible!)
Specifications change. It happens all the time. It’s why it’s so important to focus heavily on the research and planning process. The more time and energy put in at the start the more time there will be to identify and allow for potential changes further down the line, or to stop them in their tracks completely.
The aim of your digital partner should be to reduce the development effort and the chances of misunderstandings, omissions, and inconsistencies once development starts. Before a single line of code can be put down, the final specification must be agreed by both client and partner. By defining milestones, assigning tasks, and establishing stakeholders the digital partner can build a solid and precise plan before they get to work.
All development projects are different, and so there isn’t always a rule of thumb to stick to when defining a specification. However, by involving all relevant stakeholders, ensuring strong communication and collaboration, and carrying out extensive research from the start, you will be well on your way to creating a clear brief and spec that ensures your project runs smoothly, to budget, and to your exact requirements. It’s not glamorous work but it’s necessary.
If you are looking for a digital partner that can turn your awesome ideas into effective business tools, get in touch with us today.
And now for a bit of humor, how it’s not supposed to work…. lol