If You Want Your IT project to go Smoothly and Succeed, Start With the Documentation.4 minutes reading time. Published 2023-07-11.
Most IT development projects fail because somebody needs to do the preliminary work better. Most client and service provider disputes arise from things that could have been thought through before the development. There's no point in deceiving yourself - if you want a successful IT project, do proper preliminary work and create project documentation.
Six Reasons Why Project Documentation Makes Project Development Smoother
During the early stages of my career as a project manager in a web agency, I discovered an untold secret that seemed to go unnoticed by many: the lack of proper analysis in most projects. Furthermore, with it, clients could receive comparable price quotes that differentiated one from another and could be analyzed by more experienced individuals.
Would you order house price quotes and construction without a project?
In simplified terms, the usual process from the client's perspective works as follows: the client meets with the developer and provides a general description of what they expect. The developer asks for various clarifications, and the client responds. The process is repeated with the second, third, and perhaps even fourth developer. The questions and proposals were different, and consequently, the responses to the developers were always different. In this case, how can one expect the price offered by developers to be comparable or produce the same result that the client expects? How can one assume that the work provided by each developer will yield the same outcome? How can one adequately assess the quality or price of the proposals when the initial information is different for everyone, and each developer has added something of their own?
This development process always resulted in the client asking questions at the end of the project, such as "Aren't you doing this or that?" or "I thought it would work like this." Mainly because a) the client needed to sufficiently describe their vision, which needed to be clearly stated, and b) the client discussed functionality with one developer but not with the one they commissioned the work. A good idea that was discussed remained unacknowledged in the initial documentation. The aftermath of such a dispute left the client and the developer dissatisfied, as the process was unpleasant for both parties. Instead of referring to documentation or a project plan during the execution of the work, disputes arose based on unspoken or undocumented client expectations. Or conflicts arose because the developer did not understand the client's descriptions or needs.
Below, I will explain how conducting a detailed analysis for each project can improve the development process for all parties involved.
You can receive comparable price quotes.
Only when you share the same information with all development service providers can the solutions they offer be compared. All the questions and proposals they present can also be answered and documented in the initial documentation. This way, all the new thoughts and ideas are shared among all service providers.
Just as you would only request house construction quotes with a project, it is always wise to thoroughly and precisely document your project. Otherwise, how can you receive price quotes that ensure the work will yield the same result?
Changing development partners becomes more manageable.
A problem that IT agencies often encounter when talking to a client who wants the developed project to be taken over by a new developer is the need for more documentation for the project. If there is documentation for the project, transferring the project becomes simple because the new developer needs to know how the project should precisely function, the client's current needs, and what problems the project should solve. The client must repeat everything that has been previously discussed since the requirements are undescribed and undocumented. Telling the developer to "see how the current solution works" is useless and dangerous because looking at the code does not clarify what is good or bad in the old solution. What is a bug, and what is not? I once found myself in the role of a project manager in such a situation. I did not ask for documentation and requirements and chose to proceed with development, eventually creating a problem that I could have avoided for everyone involved.
However, if the client has documented all the project requirements, they can easily change development partners. If, in addition, it is also required that tests cover the developed functionality, it becomes even more straightforward. Time and time again, I see clients who come to me with a story about conflicts with their development partners, and I must admit that we need to start with documenting the project and describing the requirements.
Ordering new developments becomes easier.
Even if you successfully cooperate with an existing development partner, you benefit significantly from documenting your needs and requirements. There may be months or years between different developments. But if you require a new feature developed or changed, you can always refer to the documentation to see the current status, future status, and what the necessary change entails.
The documentation is also essential because employees in development companies change, and with such documentation, it becomes easier for a new employee to get into the system. With documentation, however, you are likely to save time in development.
The client benefits from development speed, cost, and quality.
When the system's functioning is well thought out and documented, there are fewer surprises for the development price provider, which means you can receive clearer, cheaper, and better-thought-out price quotes. This applies to ordering both new developments and making changes to existing applications. Your employees may change as well, and they will find it easier to delve into the project and communicate with the development partner if your application requirements are documented.
The client has a better overview of the development progress.
You can compare your documentation and requirements at any given moment with what has already been accomplished. Or even better, have the developer keep that overview up to date for you.
You have a foundation document for user testing.
A proper description of requirements also serves as a sound basis for testing the application, whether performed by the developer or a third-party service purchased for that purpose. In both cases, it is possible to take the description of functionalities from the documentation - the same for everyone - and see if the solution works as described. It also makes it easy to identify problems and inconsistencies in the documentation systematically.
I can assist you in compiling such documentation.
Throughout my work experience, I have worked on various clients' development needs and compiled project documentation. I have also done the same work as a consultant. Fortunately, many clients have recognized and appreciated the value of creating such documentation.