In the old paradigm, companies created a digital presence, launched it, were really happy with the immediate business results, left it alone for 3-5 years, and then started a project to re-do and update everything from scratch.
The new way of working is to use a lean process of continuous improvement, where you test what works or doesn’t work, modify and adapt based on the results. This can change the engagement that you have with the digital design/development house that you are working with to provide your web site and apps.
Whether you are imparking on a new project or wanting to conduct modifications, here are a few questions to ask your vendor in order to access their readiness to work in this new paradigm.
Are their people multi-dimensional?
Do they hire and develop their staff to have skills in design, tech and commercial awareness? Or at least build multi-disciplinary teams who work together?
The three legged stool of look&feel – technical features – commercial viability must move forward together. A good creative team will take input from all sources simultaneously, rather than go through a process where each does their piece in turn. Better yet, if the vendor’s staff are multi-dimensional, then this is may be done with a smaller tightly knit team.
What is expected of your in-house teams?
Today a lot of teams use Agile development, which has roles for a Scrum Master, as PM, and a Product Owner. The Product Owner is a functional owner and could sit either in your house or the vendor’s. Or is a blend of both – a vendor role where they check in with you. There may also be a need for your teams to do usability or acceptance testing. It’s good to get an idea on what are the expectations on collaboration from your team, to have a handle on your internal costs and need for engagement with the vendor.
When is the project finished?
Criteria on what “done” means is something that should be negotiated and documented. Asking the question starts the conversation and lets you see what the vendor’s expectations on completion criteria is. It may be different than yours.
It’s important to set boundaries around this, so that there aren’t surprises at the end when they think they are finished and you don’t. This could result in additional costs for their services.
It’s also ok to add some commercial criteria, so that you have a site that is measurable viable and not that it looks good and is funky.
How is it handed over? Who will be changing what?
If there are changes of a structural nature and who will do them going forward? As an example, your conversion experimentation may want you to move a button around, change its colour, or change its size. Is there going to be a handover from the vendor to your teams? Or will the vendor need to be contacted every time you need to tweak the site. This type of discussion should be undertaken so that requirements are clear moving forward and any implications to support are understood. (As discussed in the next point.)
Some updates that will be done going forward will be content changes. Possibly the site is built using a Content Management System (CMS) that will facilitate adding content that can be dynamically picked up without changing the overall structure or foundation of your site. If so, will your teams need any training on tools?
What are ongoing support implications?
To be fair, if there are going to be changes done to the site after the Vendor hands it over, then it isn’t fair to have the Vendor held accountable if the changes negatively impact the site. At the same time you need to be protected against any security issues or performance issues related to the Vendor’s work. So the fine line of who supports what needs to be discussed, so that everyone is comfortable with the situation post go-live.
Please leave a comment if these ideas rings true for you? If you have had any horror stories when these items were not understood before commencing a project with an outside vendor? Or if this has made you think of other questions you think are important?
Photo Credit: Microsoft Clipart