Making of a Web App: Set Expectations

This is the fourth entry in the Making of a Web App series. Key points are:

  • Use user profiles to reinforce understanding of the single activity release 1.0 is meant to support.
  • Maintain focus and set expectations by distinguishing the activity the app supports from another closely-related, yet different, activity.

Ask a Project Manager about their greatest challenges and “scope creep” is sure to top the list. It’s easy to mentally expand scope to add that “one more thing”. Yet after “one more thing” is added another “just one more thing” comes up. This cycle can continue indefinately and v1.0 never arrives or arrives “late and over budget”. There are many techniques to keep this phrase from applying to your project. One is to state early what the project will not be.

A Closely Related Activity

Now, of course you cannot state everything the project will not be. The project will not be: a fashion faux-pas fixer, a pet pamperer, a widget waxer…you get the point. Instead, pick one closely related yet clearly different activity. For example, if “invoicing” is the primary activity the application is meant to support, you might agree that estimating will not be part of version 1.0. You might write that “inventory management” is not part of the new “shipping” application. That “customer care” is different than “billing”.

Maybe the related activity will be added later. Maybe it never will. The point is that you want an application early that supports the single activity it is meant to support. And though there may be obvious integration points and features for v.2.0, v1.0 of the app should provide value standing alone.

Relationship Building vs. Campaign Management

For the Making of a Web App subject application, I’ve defined what v1.0 will not be by comparing it to campaign management. Our app is a relationship builder. It is not a compaign management tool.

Campaign management (CM) tools take a “top-down” look from the perspective of the campaign. CM efforts identify a product or service that an organization wants to publicize and attract customer to. A CM effort then develops offers that promote the product or service and builds large lists of prospects that are most likely to respond to such offers. CM tools are more about the campaign and less about the contact.

Instead, users of v1.0 of this app look at building a customer base from the contact perspective. This app flips the campaign management funnel on its head. Instead of pouring contacts into a campaign, users pour campaign steps and milestones onto a contact. Each contact is a potential opportunity. Each contact should follow similar treatment, yet will have their own time schedules and differing flavors of relationships.

Another Foundation Builder

Like user profiles, this exercise provides a basis for making scope and design decisions. Now that we are armed with this information, determining the feature list of the application will be the next step.