"My budget is really tight, can you get the project started and show me what to do to finish it?" -- Yet another request from several different prospective customers.
This sounds appealing, right? Drupal does put a huge amount of power and control in the hands of users. Aside from custom theming, many of our projects don't involve writing any code -- it's more a matter of mapping out the user stories, putting an appropriate set of modules together, and configuring them to deliver the desired result.
"I just want a web site to do memberships, events, and e-commerce. How come you can't tell me how much it's going to cost? I just want to know the price, like when I buy a car."
That's the essence of the question I've heard from at least 3 or 4 customers or prospects recently. I don't know what it is about cars and web sites that make people think there is anything at all similar about buying them.
I've long been a Bitcoin skeptic, not necessarily seeing the point of it. While I've kept passing tabs on its progress, I did not think it was viable, or worth much beyond pure speculative game play, a forum for making bets that today are up quite a lot.
At last night's Washington Technology Industry Association's "Tech in Focus" primer on Bitcoin, I changed my mind.
Clients love fixed-price projects, because they have transferred the risk of the unknowns to the vendor. Even so, if the vendor cannot fully handle those risks, the entire project might fail. Healthcare.gov is a great example of this -- poorly defined, rushed out project with no prior on-the-ground working system to uncover what was unknown before starting.
Ask any contractor the most economical way to get a job done, and the answer will be "Time and materials." The reason? You are taking on all the project risk.
Risk is, after all, the big question when it comes to any project -- what are the risks to the project? In software development, projects run over the initial budget all the time -- and that's generally because the scope of the project was unknown, poorly defined, or changed.
In a few short years, dot-com will be a quaint throwback referring to a couple of economic booms, and not something to indicate a web site. Like the Great War -- everybody now calls it World War 1, since we've had another great war... Why? Because the floodgates are about to open on domain names, and so we're about to see the rise of dot bike, dot plumbing, dot gifts, and even dot dentist.
It goes something like this:
(Client): I want to add a shopping cart to my site. I heard that xyz cart is free, can you add that for me?
(Developer): Sure! That looks easy.
(Months and a couple thousand dollars later): Okay, I think it finally works, and is all hooked up, ready to go. I put an SSL certificate on your $15/month GoDaddy account and so now you're all safe and secure.
(Client): Great! I'll just check all the boxes on this PCI questionnaire and we're in business!
A few orders come in here and there, and all seems fine. At first.
Whether you realize it or not, you're doing CRM already. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has become a hot buzzword that all kinds of businesses desperately want. I think the perception is that a CRM will somehow magically bring in sales, coordinate sponsors, manage members, fix your business.
There is no magic here, only hard work.
What are the results you are trying to achieve? How can your web site help you get those results? These are a couple of questions we're starting to ask all our clients, and what we're finding often reveals some very easy things we can do to drive more results, quickly and easily.
Freelock has a deep bench in all things Drupal, but beyond the technical skills they also offer the much-appreciated ability to ask the right questions, articulate issues, and offer strong solutions. They were a true partner that went the extra mile amidst shifting priorities and deadlines. I look forward to a continued working relationship with the team at Freelock.UW Center for Reinventing Public Education