In software development we are often called upon to plan out, estimate and deliver very large complex web development projects. We take a very organized approach to projects so that we can reduce project risks as much as possible. Project risks are increased by unknown factors.
The more unknown factors you have, the more risks you have. Therefore it is in everyone’s best interests to remove as many unknown factors in a project as possible and to get everything out in the open and known to all. This is the purpose of a roadmapping session.
Unknown factors can show up as:
- unstated or implied requirements,
- misunderstood features or functionality,
- unknown security requirements,
- omitted third party data integrations,
- unstated requirements to import information from another system,
Even the individuals involved (the customer and the developer) are variables and a sort of “unknown” to each other that will be clarified during the roadmapping session! That’s a lot of unknowns!
The Dynamic Nature of Software Projects
In the old days we used to attempt to do all of the planning upfront in order to reduce risks. The idea was to spend a month or so in planning in order to document every feature and function in the site in exact detail and then produce an estimate around this rigid set of requirements. This forced clients to adhere to a rigid specification document and discouraged change throughout the process. It has been found in modern software development that this approach is flawed, therfore we take a new, more flexible approach referred to as the Agile Development Methodology.
In software development you are dealing with a dynamic process with a lot of unknowns at the start of a project. As you get into the project, both the customer and the developer will come to new understandings and learn more and more as the process continues. As you learn more and more, you will want to make new or better decisions based on these new learnings. The Agile method takes into consideration this dynamic aspect of projects and allows for it. It puts more control into the hands of the customer and developer. Instead of adhering to a fixed set of requirements the customer can change course when they have learned something new or important. This is very critical to success.
The Agile Plan
So how do you plan out a project that is inherently dynamic in nature? At the beginning of the project we will allocate a relatively small amount of time to define the system requirements as they are understood at that moment. We will mostly focus on the key system functions.
These features will be compiled into a large list and our developers will then go about estimating these in terms of their size and complexity. In discussions with the client we will then prioritize these features in importance and in terms of the best logical approach from a development perspective.
Roadmapping Session Benefits
At the end of the roadmapping session, we will produce a document with the results of our research into how best to approach the project. We will be able to give you a better picture in terms of the project scope, size, complexity and costs. We will be able to tell you approximately how long it might take to build and how we would approach it technically.
We will be able to more accurately set realistic expectations for what can be done and in what time frame. We will also give you recommendations in terms of the correct sequence we should approach the project with. We may analyze the competition to offer you insights into how best to compete with them.
In addition to all these benefits, the roadmapping session allows both the software development company and the customer to work together on a relatively small, low risk project. Each will get to see what it’s like to work with one another and this experience will be helpful in building team coordination and confidence for the larger project.
How Long Does It Take?
Roadmapping sessions vary in how long they take. To complete this step requires that we understand the project thoroughly so we can isolate and estimate each aspect of the functionality. A few of the factors that impact how long one takes are:
- The size and scope of the project.
- The complexity of the project
- How risky the project is (some projects deal in more risky aspects than others, i.e. financial, etc)
- How complete the initial client documents are (documents, sketches, wireframes, drawings, etc.)
- How good the client’s communication skills are
It’s not uncommon for projects in the 400-500 hour range to require between 16 – 50 hrs of work depending on how complete your starting documentation is. Even so, your documentation will likely not be professionally organized and formatted so that we can reliably do our analysis work and so there’s always some work to be done here. But customers can definitely save time by doing as thorough a job as they possibly can describing their project in detail, their users, what the different users can/cannot do, the site’s key functionality, how it will make money, etc. Downloading a template from the web can help you get started in the right direction.
What to Expect
During a roadmapping session the software development company and the client will have multiple web conferences, phone calls and/or meetings to discuss the system and its key features. Key features and functions will be documented in a shared collaborative document where both users can login, edit, modify and update the documents. A table of contents will be produced along with a high level summary of the project. The key features and some of the minor features will also be documented. This process will usually happen over a period of approximately one to three weeks depending on the size of your project. Most customers feel very satisfied and thrilled with the outcome of this part of their project. It gives them the confidence of knowing exactly where they are going, how they’re going to get there and that the software provider also understands the vision clearly. In that regard a roadmapping session provides great peace of mind for the customer.
What Happens Next
Once the roadmapping session is complete, we will present to you our findings for review. There will often be some additional questions and answers. We will usually provide a project estimate which will include a low estimate, a medium estimate and a high estimate. Doing so gives the client a much more accurate picture of what they’re looking at. As a result of the roadmapping session, most clients confidence is very high and they usually sign up for the next step, which is the actual software development.
The Roadmapping Session Is Vital
In our experience these roadmapping sessions have become extremely important and vital to the success of projects. Without them there is a lot of guessing and gambling going on and this is not the way you want to start your project. Most of the failed projects that have been referred to us are due to this lack of initial planning.
Get a Roadmapping Session Today!
If you have an idea you want to pursue and are looking to take the next step, we look forward to helping you with a roadmapping session. The roadmapping session is a small investment in your big idea. For many customers it provides the motivation and impetus to take the next step.
Even if you won’t be able to invest the financial resources into the actual development of your project, the roadmapping session could be the perfect next step for you in the pursuit of building your big idea. You can use the results of the roadmapping session to discuss your idea with investors or other individuals who could provide the funding for your project. It will show that you have done your due diligence and are taking a responsible approach to your project.
Give us a call at 727-562-5161 & Press 1 to schedule your roadmapping session today or request a call online.