Why so few web projects are a complete success?

4 minutes reading time. Published 2020-04-11.

After having worked in two different agencies for a total of almost nine years, I had seen a vast range of projects. They all had their own goals, and while they had reached those goals, it was not always smooth sailing from start to finish. Not all of those projects were successful.

At one point, I started to wonder why was it so? How come some clients walk away with a broad smile, and others leave with satisfaction or dissatisfaction?

I started with what any analytical thinker would do - prepare a list of questions and interview different people to see their ideas on the topic. After I had run my series of interviews, a pretty clear picture arose.

Since my interviewees were often developers and project managers, they often brought up that successful projects have a clear goal, they are interesting to develop and offer a wide array of challenges. Challenges and essential goals are critical for developers to ensure the work does not become boring and provides different ways to learn and grow.

But the most surprising thing that came up was that a great customer representative is crucial. This single thing was the common attribute of all successful projects - great, knowledgeable, professional product owner on the client-side.

The knowledge gap of IT.

There are often gaps between the knowledge of service professionals and customers ordering the service. No person knows all the details that say construction experts know. Like purchasing paint from the store, even simple things often require that you consult with the clerk in the store.

It seems to me that this knowledge gap in IT is one of the biggest in the world. Compare it to visiting your doctor. The doctor owns crazy amounts of knowledge about the human body, and often, they spend significant portions of your visit explaining to you what and why you need to do. And doctors specialise - you have a disease and organ-specific doctors and general practitioners. When it comes to your health, then you usually know what you don't know.

Now back to IT. Most people are not aware of the intricacy of the different layers that work seamlessly together when you press a button on the keyboard. The signal is released on the keypress, interpreted in keyboard, passed on through the wire to the computer, analysed by the controller, passed on through the memory to the screen, and displayed on it. This last sentence does not even explain all the steps of how the letter you just typed arrives on the screen. It does not explain how many different programs developed by thousands of other people does the job there. For example, if you are interested in how displaying a website works, read this article here.

And back to why I talk about the knowledge gap. Much of the work that project managers and owners do in the agency is explaining to customers how things work. This process is prone to many translation errors because, in many cases, the project managers "translate" the technical information acquired from developers to the customers.

These translation errors are often one of the reasons why things go sour between customer and client. The existence of translation errors and other similar problems is why the client-side project manager/product owner makes things smoother for both parties. They know how agencies work and what to demand from the contractor. They also know what and how to explain to the management.

How you can benefit from all this

After explaining things from an agency perspective, I'll explain how having an in-house product owner can benefit you. Usually, ordering a project development falls to an employee who is considered good with IT or has suitable seniority or possesses the most in-house knowledge about what is necessary. Problems start at presenting essential information for getting the agency's price quote, comparing the quotes, picking the right agency or right technologies. They happen because there is a gap of knowledge and information between the person ordering the service and the agency offering the service.

Having a fantastic in-house product owner or product consultant means that they:

  • help you to figure out what is necessary.
  • help you to create an information package for the agencies. This package will serve as the beginning of the product documentation.
  • press agencies for comparable quotes.
  • negotiate better prices.
  • have enough experience to pick out the best development partners. manage the process to ensure quality.
  • manage the process to ensure quality.
  • manage the process to ensure the project is stopped quickly when something unnecessary is developed.
  • ensure the best possible price/quality ratio.

My goal is to make sure no company wastes time and money on products that a new agency will completely rewrite in a few years. I want to make sure the customers get the best possible service and gain money from IT projects, not waste it. If you are thinking about having a new product developed, perhaps consider talking to me first.