If you were drawn to this article, you likely have a little bundle of cloud-based joy on the way. Congratulations! After a few months of preparation, you’re going to have a new system in your life that will bring you years of joy (or, at the very least, productivity).
But before the big day comes, there are a few things we should talk about.
The Way Your Proposal Works
You may already have a proposal at this point. If not, might I suggest you reach out to our friendly sales team?
With that necessary bit of log rolling out of the way, you should understand that proposals, which define what your consulting firm is going to build, typically come in one of two flavors: fixed-price and time and materials. Proposals are also contracts, so I’ll use the terms interchangeably.
Fixed-price contracts are pretty much what you would expect: deliverables are defined and a price is set. The stated price is what you pay. It’s really that simple.
Time and materials projects are another animal entirely. In a time and materials project, your consulting firm will detail what they are going to deliver along with an estimated cost and timeline. Those estimates provide some structure around the proposal and will help you budget, but your consultant will charge based on the real work effort, measured in hours, it took to deliver what’s in the scope of work. Most of our work at Cloud for Good is done on a time and materials basis.
What does that mean for you? For one thing, while an upper bound on cost is defined in the project, there’s some flexibility in costs. They could go up or down depending on several things: the scale and complexity of the solutions delivered, the timeline, the cleanliness and complexity of your existing data, and a multitude of additional factors.
The most important thing for you to take away from this is that you have a lot of control over how much a project winds up costing your organization.
Though it’s a little more complicated than painting a nursery, there’s a lot that you can do to make for a smoother, easier, and less expensive implementation.
Start off by building a solid internal team to help steward the project to completion. These should be your organization’s early adopters, key stakeholders, and power users. The scale of the team will change depending on the size of your organization, but it’s generally best to keep it on the smaller side and avoid the dilemma of too many cooks in the kitchen. That’s not to say that only people on your implementation team should be involved in the project, though. It’s quite the opposite!
The first thing your consultant is likely to want to do is conduct a thorough business process review to understand your organization and grapple with what needs your organization has. You can streamline this process by having your internal implementation team meet with key stakeholders and go over how they work and what they want to do with the new system. Simply asking questions of your colleagues will help get the gears turning and expedite the discovery process. Documenting what you’ve found out can make the process go even faster.
Some parts of your implementation will be fairly time-intensive for your staff, especially the discovery and testing phases of the project. Get a head start by blocking time on your colleagues’ calendars as soon as you have a sense for what the estimated timeline will be. During these phases, have your key implementation stakeholders clear their calendars for a few days early in each phase. That will give them adequate time to meet with your consultant(s) or to test what has been built.
Also on the topic of scheduling, if you have major events, campaigns, meetings, retreats, or vacations coming up, don’t let important milestones fall during those times! Start your project earlier, schedule a temporary pause on the project, or work with your account executive to ensure that those unavoidable obstacles coincide with less staff-intensive phases of the project.
As an example, when I start a new project, I like to wrap up discovery in an intensive week if at all possible, or two weeks at most. Condensing the business process review keeps everyone on track and allows you and your colleagues to focus on the comprehensive requirements gathering effort. When this phase takes longer than it should, it’s typically because client calendars are booked solid, so get ahead of that problem as soon as you can!
Data clean-up is a bit beyond what I want to talk about in this post, but it’s also very time intensive, so start tidying up that data early. There are plenty of posts on our blog about handling your data.
Dealing with Late Arrivals
Unlike with a real bundle of joy, there’s no problem if you need a little additional time to prepare for the arrival of your database, right? Surely your consulting firm will be able to easily pause the project for a few weeks while you get an internal hiccup or two sorted out, right?
During an implementation, it’s important that everybody sticks to their defined timelines if at all possible. Sometimes unavoidable issues can come up, but it’s important to know that each delay represents a risk to the project’s overall health.
There are direct costs to a project delay. Though your consultant isn’t likely to make you feel bad about asking for more time, it’s important that you understand that even a fairly short delay can have a significant impact on the overall cost of a project. By way of example, let’s assume that the testing phase of a project just happens to fall during your big gala, and you and your colleagues have absolutely zero time to dedicate to anyone who hasn’t bought a seat. During the two weeks you and your colleagues are preparing for the gala, your consulting team still has project work to do: they’re keeping you in the loop about the project, meeting internally about the project, and making sure that, when you return to the project, things are ready for you. Your consulting firm will bill you for this time. Even if there isn’t a massive amount of work being done on a project, delays can scale quickly.
There are also indirect costs to a project delay. Let’s continue with the example above: your gala went splendidly and you can focus on the project again, but now your project is running two weeks behind schedule. The data you need to import is now two weeks more stale, so you’re going to have a lot of gift entry to do once you’re live. This also pushes your sign-off date for the project back two weeks, which is smack dab into the middle of your Executive Director’s extended, internet-free vacation in Bali, and you can’t close the project without their blessing. That means more delays, additional project management expenses, and a longer delay to go live.
The Big Finale
There’s a lot you can do to make sure your implementation goes smoothly. Plan ahead, build a great team, prepare carefully, and stick to your timelines. If you do, your database can help grow your organization’s legacy for years and years, and you won’t even to have to pay to send it to college!
Interested in learning more? Consider reading: