You’ve heard the phrase, “Always get it in writing,” right? It’s an important concept in the legal world, the business world, the world world, or any world where you’re dealing with people looking to fulfill a promise. In fact, I remember my own parents telling me to sign a contract when I was younger, promising to unground me if I’d completed chores. I witnessed my friend make her child sign a contract where she outlined her promise to do better in school. Think of how many contracts you’ve probably come across; cars, homes, employment, they’re everywhere.
Getting it in writing isn’t important because you can come around and smack them in the face with the consequences of their own actions, but instead because in that moment - the moment that they sign their name along that line - they acknowledge that they understand the other party’s expectations and that naturally leads into understanding the consequences of not meeting those expectations, which is where the smack comes in.
But the point isn’t to outline the smack, it’s to avoid it. You want to make sure that everything goes smoothly enough to not need a smack at all, but instead to foster a beneficial and fruitful outcome to an agreement made by two parties so both leave happy. If everything goes according to their understanding of the plan - they come out happy. The key to every agreement is making sure that all parties’ understanding of the plan is in line with one another’s.
So, how, as a business looking to work with a client, can we make sure everyone is on the same page from day one and stays that way until day done?
Pre-Discovery - This describes the time period from the initial contact with the client to the next step. It’s when you meet with the client, talk to them, and figure out exactly what they’re looking for. At this point you’re looking for two things: Feasibility and Compatibility.
- Feasibility- Can you deliver what they’re offering? Does the scale match your manpower? Does the complexity match your skillset?
- Compatibility- Relationships. All client relationships involve human contact, mashing of morals, values, and ethics. Now you won’t get to know the in’s and out’s of a person from the first few times you meet them, but at this point it’s a good idea to try to see what they’re about. Even if the project works, if the long term relationship might be shaky, it could be a good idea to reconsider.
Proposal- When you pitch the outline of our pre-discovery to the client, ask them to sign off. Here you outline their scope of work, how you plan to achieve it, and what the terms of the relationship are. This is the part where you formalize expectations, and for your client to correct you if you are off base. Signing off on it means that both you and the client understand the nature of your relationship. It’s also important at this stage to address the notion of scope creep - which is any work on features or implementations outside of the proposal. Not extra work that arises due to a feature or implementation not working as based on the scope, although that often happens and avoiding that happens in discovery, but extra work from things on parts not outlined in the scope directly.
Bid- The formal proposal, with a price to be put on the scope of work. Formalized, with signatures, numbers, and all the formalities. This is the final gate before the aforementioned smack, can be instituted.
Discovery - After the bid the real discovery process can take place, where you iron out the nuts and bolts of the project. It’s not discovering scope of work, it’s discovering how to get it done, step by step, and presenting that to the client. This is where you try to discover potential issues to avoid having to do extra work because you may not have accounted for a potential obstacle in your scope.
Check-In’s & Communication - After this, and work has begun, check-in’s are mandatory. You give a brief overview of steps completed and steps to be started on, and continue working. The client at this stage does not do any kind of “signing off” at this stage. They’ve already signed off on the plan, at this point you’re just communicating that you are getting parts of the plan done. If there are hiccups or obstacles, now would be the time to bring them up. You’ll never be able to predict everything and it’s important to always refer back to the initial scope if they do.
Conclusion- Whether after this you design a “Continuation Plan” or go back to step one, at this point you and the client both sign off on the project: Everyone’s expectations are met, and the project is complete.
Following this process, Pulse Group successfully has countless of fantastic, strong relationships with its clients, and the way that Pulse Group always delivers on quality projects that we take on.