Remember the last time you worked hard on something, only to find out in horror that you missed a major requirement for success? Did you feel annoyed and frustrated, or were you kicking yourself for not paying more attention to what needed to be done?
When building a custom intranet solution, it's vital to make sure you have all the requirements ironed out before you begin development. Keep reading to hear what happened to us and learn how to avoid such a pitfall on your next project.
Recently, we were working with a client to convert a paper-based process into an electronic one by building a custom SharePoint/Office 365 sites solution. We held discovery and requirement gathering sessions, created diagrams for the electronic workflow using Microsoft Visio and went through several iterations of constructing the system and getting feedback from our client.
At the last minute, a key stakeholder who had been missing from the project up to this point jumped in. And it was at that point we realized that the rest of our client's team forgot to bring up some major issues that this key stakeholder was now mentioning. Because this feedback was completely valid and coming from an important contact in the organization, we had to put the rest of the project on hold while we worked to accommodate these requirements within the tight schedule.
What We Learned
When you start developing your custom intranet solution, you should never assume that the list of what you absolutely need is set in stone. Always keep in mind that there could be some changes down the line, and build your system in a way that can accommodate these changes.
With this mindset, you'll minimize the extra work you may have to do in the future, and you'll perform your due diligence to create a system that can be flexible and open to new requirements. Also, leave a reasonable amount of free time in your project’s schedule for any unexpected issues that pop up during development.
What You Should Do
To prevent a repeat of this unfortunate experience, involve your company's key stakeholders in the research and development processes as much (and as early) as possible. Before the implementation phase begins, you should hold a non-optional meeting with all the important figures in the company. They should hear a demo or presentation from the team you've chosen that describes what will be implemented. Once they understand the roadmap, they should provide the initial go-ahead.
Still, it can be very difficult for key stakeholders to have the time to spend in meetings, as they're often higher-ups within an organization who are very short on time. Instead, at the end of an important meeting, summarize what's been discussed and share it with them when they have time in their schedule. Try to involve most of the stakeholders from the beginning of the process. Even if they play a relatively minor role, you might be surprised by the good ideas or key information they can provide.
Creating and strictly adhering to a series of scheduled meetings can get more key stakeholders involved. When meetings are planned at the last minute or moved around, it can be difficult to keep the level of attendance up. Try to make the meetings as consistent as possible in terms of who's present, when they're held and what's discussed.
As with any project, building a custom SharePoint/Office 365 sites solution rarely goes exactly as planned, with new and unanticipated issues likely to arise. By planning ahead and involving your company's key figures in the process as much as possible, you can minimize the stress and surprises for both yourself and the development team.