Managing Cost & Scope
Time is Money.
Right out of the gate, it’s important to realize that you are paying for “time”, for the labor to redesign your website. Don’t forget that this includes time required by the college or university’s staff. Obviously, you are more concerned about the funds that will be paid out to your development partner, but a lot of work falls on your administrative staff. So it’s important to
- allocate sufficient time to get the work done right to minimize unplanned cycles,
- meet deadlines consistently because other resources, and the entire project plan, are dependent upon timely delivery,
- control meetings so they are efficient and effective (a 2 hour meeting with 8 people is 16 hours of labor).
Timing is Everything.
It’s a lot easier to adjust your budget and scope early in the project. During large redesign projects, there is typically a significant “pool” of labor hours planned for the project. When an issue arises early, your project manager may be able to make adjustments in later stages such that a budget addendum is not required. It’s not always possible, but worth the discussion. Certainly, as you get deeper into the project, there’s less “wiggle room”.
Many Ways to “Skin a Cat”.
This is important. When scope “creeps” (and it will), discuss alternatives with your project manager. In many cases, the business need can be supported by a variety of technical designs, some very sophisticated; others, not so much. This isn’t always the case, but as you might guess, cost goes up with the level of technical design and quality. So, for example, if you identify a new feature that you would like to add to requirements, then keep the business need in mind when discussing it with your project manager and technical engineer. We recommend identifying “must haves” and “would like to haves”.
RFP Due Diligence & Post-Analysis True-up.
Most Higher Ed Website Redesign efforts start with an RFP for Analysis, Design and Development. Unfortunately, in this business, it is impossible to accurately quote a price for the design and development phases until there have been ample discussions with the stakeholders to fully understand (and document) the business requirements. There are simply too many variables. Consequently, vendors have no choice but to always assume worst-case scenarios and, as is typical for fixed fee contracts, they must include the infamous “fudge factor” to cover any “gotchas” that were not known at the time the RFP was created, even before some stakeholders have even chimed in. The ideal approach, to optimize your cost, is to break the project into 3 separately contracted phases, or possibly 2, by combining Analysis & Design. Regardless of you structure the project, include a “Post-Analysis True Up”, such that scope/cost adjustments can be made (and planned) early in the project.
Most RFP responses are about what the web partner plans to do. It lists their tasks, deliverables and timelines. It doesn’t list what they are NOT going to do… as it would be impossible to list everything. It’s important to keep this in mind as you read through the RFP. Don’t “assume” anything. Ask questions. Get it down in writing. Yes, it’s time consuming, but it forces everyone to be on the same page EARLY.
Fixes vs Modifications vs Enhancements.
Any formidable web design and development partner has a well-defined change management process. Typically there are 3 types of “change orders” (below). Make sure you have a full understanding of this early, because the latter two typically bring additional fees to your project.
- Fix: adjustment to a feature/function that is not working as required.
- Modification: an unplanned minor adjustment to a feature/function that is working properly, but will better address a requirement.
- Enhancement: development of a new function/feature that was not part of the requirements.
Also, adopt a “Release Mentality”. That is, as new ideas arise, resist the urge to jam them into the current project. Table them for the next update, or “release” of enhancements. This provides the time to more thoroughly assess the business value and technical design, while allowing the current project to stay on track. This mentality ensures that your website stays fresh with well-conceived feature upgrades throughout the year.
Your Web Partner’s Perspective.
The business dictionary defines a “project” as a “planned set of interrelated tasks to be executed over a fixed period and within certain cost and other limitations.” The Project Manager’s job is to govern the associated process. That being said, your web partner sees it as a collaborative team effort, and his/her responsibility to get everyone to the finish line on time and at/under budget. But even more importantly, it’s about delivering something that will make everyone involved feel proud. However, there are boundaries, and when they are approached, there should be professionally-handled push back to get things back on course. The most successful projects operate with a high-level of trust, communication and professionalism by all parties involved.