SSW Update - Do you conduct a Specification Review?
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G'Day Developers!

What is the step that the client should undertake after an initial meeting? We think it should be a "Specification Review". Generally a client wants to know if his idea will be $50K or $150K.

A "Specification Review" is performed to determine the overall scope, feasibility, and ballpark of the project. We encourage you to also create a detailed "Release Plan" for the first 2 releases.

eg. Mr Northwind learns that the idea he presented at the initial meeting will cost approximately $80K and he has to determine if that is feasible to his business or if he should remove some functionality.

The Specification Review should be paid work and is conducted by two experienced developers at the client premises in close consultation with the client. The time allocated for a Spec Review is generally 1 - 5 days depending on initial expectations of the project. The rule of thumb is 1 - 2 days Spec Review per estimated month of project time. The purpose is to understand the whole project but, if the project is greater than six months, focus primarily on the first six months. The Spec Review is a process that will demonstrate to the client whether you have the commercial sense to understand their **business** and have the technical and management capacity to complete the project.

Talk Business Process
  • Interview: During the Spec Review, obtain an overall 'outsiders' understanding of the business and project through an interview process with senior management, relevant business users and IT staff.
  • Review Documentation: Reviewing any documentation the client may already have. Remember clients are mostly looking to software consultants to assist them in solving business problems.
  • Technology: Warning: Detailed discussions about technology with the client, unless they have a specific business purpose, are unlikely to be useful. For example most clients won't be interested in a discussion about whether to use MVC or ASP.NET traditional at this stage.

Do something valuable

Most experts at software consulting will be able to provide a small improvement to the current system 'on the fly' during the Spec Review. This may be something as simple as adding an index to a table and thereby increasing the performance of a webpage.

See the further steps we take.

Cheers until next time, Adam
SSW Chief Architect and Microsoft Regional Director, Australia 

Got a comment for Adam? 6164616d636f67616e407373772e636f6d2e6175

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We work efficiently on the right things in a visible way…. Looking at processes and tracking and time systems

Every IT development group gets criticised by its customers (internal and external) for not getting their priorities right and not being open about what they are actually doing. If your group all worked as efficiently as possible, on precisely the things that your customer wanted in the right priority order in such a visible way that your customer could change priority and know all the impacts, it would be virtually impossible for the customer to be critical. While it's probably impossible to develop and execute all the processes to achieve this, we can get very close and have a lot of fun and pride doing so.

This talk is all about having all tracking and development information in one integrated system that does not include email. Emails should not contain information that needs to be referenced and should not be used for discussion; it is a good medium for reminders but anything useful in them should be moved to the integrated system. From one end of the spectrum a business stakeholder (customer) should be able to view the work in progress starting from a high level e.g. drilling down into a programme and see any amount of detail they wish. Similarly, a developer should be able to view what they are working on and then link up to the associated requirements and programme giving the reason for each task. Every bit of time worked by anybody should also be recorded on the system for both accounting and historical reasons. These figures can then be used for changing strategy (e.g. spend more on support and less on development) and for helping future estimates and planning.

Having tried a variety of open source, commercial and home-grown systems, the presenter has chosen a combination of Jira and Confluence (both provided by Atlassian) and SVN. While these products are not the only solution, they demonstrate how well the processes of an organisation can be modelled and tracked. We are not talking bug tracking here, we are talking about tracking everything everybody needs and does. Each member of the company has a personal dashboard showing them their work outstanding together with priorities, dependencies, time estimates and due dates.

Mark Hetherington is the CTO of Tilefile. He graduated from London University with an honours degree In Computer Science and nine years with a UK software house before moving to Australia. Mark helped found the Australian Centre for Unisys Software (ACUS) and then became its director during which time he grew the organization to over 150 while managing other software groups in New Zealand and the United States.
In 1994, he joined his first Internet startup which went on to build the successful RSVP dating business. He grew this company to over one hundred staff before moving on. In 1999, he moved to Seattle to be responsible for building the first airborne Internet server which sent the first email from a plane less than a year later while growing the company from 18 to over 100.
After launching his own award-winning (Consensus Software Award) Internet service in 2003, he spent a year in Vancouver rescuing a poor-performing gaming software organization by introducing good process and helping move the share price from a few cents to over $3. He was the CIO of Mooter Media from 2005 to 2007 where he built the software organization and deployed the application to dozens of servers in China where it served over 200 million individually selected advert impressions per day.
His expertise lies in software engineering process, operational process, high throughput web systems, system architecture & staff management.
He joined Tilefile in May 2007 where his vast experience has admirably complimented the young, talented and creative engineering team.

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