On this page, we have given examples of two types of client and how we might deal with their requirments. We can, of course, tailor our approach to whatever would suit you; these are just examples of what has worked well in the past: scenario 1 is a client with an existing IT department and experience of developing bespoke software; scenario 2 is a client with little IT experience.
You already have an IT team and IT procedures in place, but you don't have the staff or skills currently available for a particular project. You can't justify the time and expense involved in recruiting extra staff, or you want to allocate the costs to a different budget, so you are looking to outsource the development, and possibility maintenance of the project.
Unless your project is very self-contained, we typically find it best to work on-site, alongside the team who will eventually take ownership of it. This allows you to easily control our access to your tools and data, without causing concern over license issues and taking confidential information off-site. It also makes it easy for you to see our progress, and easy for us to discuss requirement or technical issues as they arise.
On some projects, extensive requirements gathering takes place, followed by many meetings between the business and business analysts, before lengthy documents are passed to IT for further discussions. There is then a process of document revision, and meetings, until everyone is happy or a compromise has been reached, at which point the documents are signed off and the build phase can begin. For some large projects this slow process may be necessary, but in many cases we have found it quicker for us to talk to the business directly. Once we understand the needs of the business we can produce a proposal, quickly followed by a prototype. We believe it is important to get a prototype up and running as quickly as possible. This will give the business a feel for how the finished system will operate, and allow them to make changes to their requirements before it becomes unrealistic. It will also highlight potential performance issues at an early stage.
We strongly recommend holding weekly meetings attended by at least one business representative, and one IT representative, as well as ourselves, to discuss progress and any non-urgent issues. Minutes of the meetings should be kept and distributed (usually on an intranet site). This makes it easy for any interested party to ensure that the project is proceeding to plan.
For projects which involve a GUI, we usually begin training the business staff when the project is functionally complete. This often allows us to add small usability features at the last minute, which can make the difference between a project which is adequate, and a project which is a pleasure to use. A manual is also provided. This is usually written in HTML and is accessible from within the program, and as a stand-alone document.
Finally, we hand over code, documentation, and test programs. Depending on the size of the project, we usually allocate one to two days, to go over the design and code of the project with your IT team.
IT is not your main business; you may not have any IT staff at all. You want to buy an IT solution that just works, in the same way you would buy a telephone system or vending machine.
We would typically work on a time and materials basis until the requirements are finalised, whereupon we would give you a fixed price to complete the job. If you have particularly clear requirements, we may be able to quote a fixed price straight away, conversely if you are unsure of exactly what you need, we can produce a prototype for you and then quote a price for completion.
At the end of the project, we will give you a CD with all the source code, test programs and design documentation, so that any qualified person can make changes to the software. We will also make sure your staff are trained and proficient with the software.
We appreciate that your budget for IT will be very tight, so we will make every effort to minimise costs. Wherever possible we will not use software which requires a license on each desktop, nor will we use expensive, proprietry software packages which require annual maintenance fees or constant upgrades. Nowadays, there is huge selection of high-quality software available for free; the number one web server and number two server operating system are both available at no cost. By using a judicious combination of free and proprietry software, more money is left over to tailor a solution that is best for you.
We can also advise on hardware. Are you facing a large hardware bill to upgrade your PCs to run Windows Vista or 7? There are alternatives. Can you get the features you need without upgrading? Do all your computers need to run the same version of operating system? Have you thought about thin clients? Do you have virus problems? We would be happy to discuss possible solutions to these problems, which can give you greater functionality at lower cost.
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