Dealing With Complex Projects

Complex projects can be a developer’s worst nightmare. The pressure to quote a project that will potentially change though its life cycle is a recipe for disaster. This can bankrupt a developer or a project that is quoted on a flat rate.  I feel that the more complex project should be broken down into phases. I have dealt with a few projects that I have used the billable phase of project management to determine the total cost. Asking to get paid for diagnoses is a pretty reasonable request for a professional software/web developer or development company.

Phase 1: Design / Scope of Development /Cost
This goal of this phase is to determine exactly what the project will involve. This will include research and communication between the design and development team, and the client.  The benefit of this to the developer is that it serves as a “billable” phase. This will encourage more time spent to determine the total project scope, cost of development and plan for the actual development.  Experienced developers or development teams will have to quote as high as possible for the unknown. The total cost of phase 1 will depend on the following:
1) Complexity of the project:
The more complex the project, the more time it will take for a good scope of cost to be determined. The “Phase 1″ approach may be a little as a day of research if the client is providing designs and adequate information.
2) Complexity of the designs:
The more complex the project, the more effort will be needed for the design. On a complex project with a custom administrative console, it is important to have designs for every possible view. Humans are visual beings in that what we dream of in abstract might not function as we intend to in its implementation. Design goes a long way to eliminate “scope creep.”

3) Availability of all parties to communicate:
Making sure all parties are available to communicate is key during “phase 1.” This phase is the information gathering phase, and there will need to be coordination between the developer, designer and any relevant stakeholder.
4) Layout of the Business Requirements:
It is very important to have a firm understanding of the businesses requirements as this phase is starting.  In some cases, the client is not sure of the overall business requirements to complete the project.  The developer or software/web engineering consultant could use the “phase 1” approach to determine the validity of the business. If the business requirements are well defined, the research time will be reduced.

Summary of Phase 1:

Phase 1 is used to determine the best approach to a larger, more complex project. The following would be the expected deliverable at the end of phase 1.

Each page view should have an associated approved design by the end of “phase 1”. The provided design should account for pages both on the front end and back end.  The complexity of the designs will determine the cost of phase 1. The more pages/views will add hours to this portion of the project.

Scope of Work:
The scope of work is an import deliverable on the “phase 1” approach. As the designs and graphics are taking shape, the scope of work will ultimately terminate the cost of the project. Even if the clients have provided a business plan or “scope of work,” it is important to understand the scope of work the development team will be providing, including both the business and the technical plansin achieving.

Project Quote:
The project quote in most cases will be a determining factor if the project continues to development. The benefit to the client in having designs and a plan of action of development is that it can make the decision on how to proceed easier. It is important to understand the client’s budget and what elements of the project they are willing to live without to meet it.


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