Software as a Service (SaaS) and Platform as a Service (Paas) dominate web and mobile service models with the almighty application programming interfaces (API’s) allowing for service extensions beyond a shared core.
For companies with teams that build out and maintain in-house software the API interfaces are sufficient to deliver on any custom solution to meet business needs. Many businesses however do not have development focused IT teams, with the job description of the department limited to supporting human users of deployed infrastructure and overall maintenance. In most cases where IT is a support function and not the key line of business, software development is outsourced and a good brief is central to the success of the build out and meeting of overall business objectives.
The brief is a statement of work that at a high level outlines the problem, the desired solution, target publics, user experience, channels of experience and the picture of success. Resource estimation, both human and capital, is in my opinion the most important result of a brief, underpinning why it must be well articulated.
While customer is king, customer is also sometimes clueless, fueled by a me too implementation driven by what a competitor is doing or sitting on the bleeding edge of innovation that no use cases or templates exist from which to pick.Developing a statement of work from a two sentence needs statement takes the concerted effort of both the customer and solution provider. A key appreciation from the consumer, should be that the effort from the provider is billable as they must immerse themselves and gain an innate understanding of their business if they are to articulate requirements into a fully-fledged.
Starting with the end in mind is best, as it gives your solution provider a quick start off the blocks determining the underlying solution stack, that will be further dissected to arrive at individual cost centers that will inform finalized pricing. Having a realistic budget range is important as it will help determine the solution range available. A good provider with a solid process will have defensible pricing matrix and can quickly tell you whether it is a no or a go based on your given budget. Expectations on time have to be managed and with human resource billable in hours you must allow ample time for your provider to deliver quality work. Of course they can burn the midnight oil but expect the costs to rise as more talent billable by the hour is employed. Design thinking elements; user interfaces (UI) and user experiences (UX), acceptance testing guides, training of trainers, desired payment models and post project maintenance must also be covered in the statement of work.
A bad brief leads to poor execution which has a negative domino effect on all other facets of a project. Take time out to get it right before starting to build or integrate on any bespoke project.