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Dinner Conversations – websites, interest rates, or wine?

What’s the difference between a website build and a home loan? ...Well not much really, however you’ll likely benefit in both pursuits if you can adopt a flexible approach.

Paul M 21 January 2013

What’s the difference between a website build and a home loan? ...Well not much really, however you’ll likely benefit in both pursuits if you can adopt a flexible approach.

From January 2007 to January 2009 home loan interest rates increased by nearly 2% in Australia, rising to almost 10%. Dinner conversations amongst mortgage holders and, more particularly, prospective mortgage holders, had an un-nerving tendency to discuss whether to “fix” one’s home loan or go with a “variable rate”.  Folk that needed absolute certainty chose “to fix”, others that could be a bit more flexible decided to “go variable”. The “go variable” folk benefited from the large drop in rates in the following year. Their dinner conversations could go back to wine... or perhaps their next website project.

Flexibility in website projects, if budget constraints allow, can also result in better outcomes for clients. Increasingly Salsa is gearing its project delivery process to better accommodate change and uncertainty rather than attempting to make choices about function as part of the pre-sales process. Clients that are able to defer functional and design decisions and work with an indicative project cost through a structured scoping phase with Salsa experts (Business Analysts, Project Managers and Creative Designers) are launching functionally rich and well resolved websites. ...Their next dinner parties are able to discuss wine and as well as beautiful websites.

So, how’s Salsa doing this?

A Scope/Discovery phase

For medium and large complexity websites, and selected small sites, Salsa recommends a formalised Scope Phase as the first part of project execution. The Salsa team – encompassing Business Analysts, Project Manager and Creative Designer – work with client stakeholders to develop a good understanding of the key project drivers, critical success factors and goals: the project’s vision. Salsa then runs structured workshops to probe the functions of the site, the creative inputs and any technical considerations/constraints. It is at this point that clients that are able to remain flexible (and work with an indicative budget) are able to take advantage of options presented by the Salsa team. This level of discovery allows consideration of options that could not have been envisaged during the sales process. Flexibility is rewarded. The output of the Scope/Discovery phase is a Functional Specification which forms an agreed baseline for the project and allows for a re-estimation of the project’s timeline and cost.

More traditional project execution methods – and Salsa has learnt the hard way the downfalls of such techniques – attempt to lock to project functions and costing when a proposal is presented as an output of the sales cycle. Complex projects invariably suffer from this inflexible method of execution as quickly complex discussions around scope, baseline detail, assumptions and the project’s vision result as soon as the delivery process initiates. Time is wasted and the client team is afforded no quick/easy path to change aspects of the site as they work with Salsa.

Agile Delivery

Armed with an agreed Functional Specification as an output of the Scope and re-estimated project timeline and cost, Salsa employs an agile delivery model to offer further flexibility in the Salsa delivery approach. Essentially Salsa further extends the period where clients are able to make reasonable level of changes to the site, including while it is being built.

Keys to Salsa’s agile delivery model are:

Iterations

Functions are grouped sensibly, allowing the site to be developed in packages of work. Key iterations are presented to the client allowing them to see progress and make informed decisions on remaining functions. Often the early iterations are designed to deliver the more complex features as a risk mitigation exercise.

Primary Process Flows

Iterations are frequently designed to demonstrate primary process flows, end-to-end, as quickly as possible. Clients are able to validate the project’s vision early in the project’s build.

CRs and Swaps

While the Functional Specification is the baseline for the project, and has a baseline cost, all projects have changing requirements as they evolve. As such, to remain flexible, Salsa offers a lightweight process for low complexity change requests. A client is easily able to make tweaks to the baseline with minimal process overhead. More complex change requests may require an update to the Functional Specification however Salsa has a mature process allowing for this level of client requested change. If the client really wants to make a change, they can.

The agile delivery model – where Salsa and the client are able to remain flexible – in general results in a well resolved website entering client testing (user acceptance) and subsequent launch.

UAT/Launch

Having committed to a scope/discovery phase, and having used an agile process to deliver the project, clients in general have a more enjoyable UAT and launch experience.  The client is more proud of the finished product because it is much more nicely resolved and has had sufficient feedback opportunity during iteration to tweak key aspects. Adoption of the site in the client’s organisation and, more particularly, by the client’s clients, have a much greater chance of success. Testing and launch benefit from all parties remaining flexible.

A Final Word

So if you find conversations turning to interest rates at your next dinner party and become a bit bored, deflect conversation back to wine – that is, unless you want to bring up your beautiful new Salsa - designed and - built website on your smartphone.

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