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Ask any government department what they wished they’d done differently on an IT project and the answer will always be the same: better planning. No good builder would start work without detailed architects’ drawings, and software is no different. Our strength is as much in the architecture of our software as it is in the building. Lateral thinking is our bread and butter.
We start every project by getting to understand the history, aims and aspirations of the organisation we’re looking to add value to; this background knowledge is essential for us to understand your mindset and work together well.
Business Analysis Workshop
The Business Analysis Workshop is a service available from Decent Group, helping you get the best out of your business. Our experienced business process analysts will perform a complete company analysis and review.
To conduct a business analysis workshop we would typically allow two days on site to:
- understand and document the processes that the software needs to support
- identify opportunities to automate and simplify processes
- consider cost-benefit of each such opportunity and whether to include it in the scope of the development
- prioritise the opportunities included in the scope
- consider the impact of change introduced by the development and arrive at an implementation plan that will
- be split in to clear, low-risk stages
- deliver a business benefit at each stage
- allow a gap of any length of time to be left between stages, should the customer require
A completely bespoke Business Analysis report is then drawn up, giving a complete picture of your business and your individual requirements specific to you. From this, an outline price proposal (typically a sheet of A4 outlining what needs doing, how we suggest doing it, in what sort of timescale and an approximate price) can be generated if you wish to proceed with any of the offered solutions.
The benefits are huge – a professional and completely impartial, rigorous business analysis, highlighting ways your business can be improved, offered at our usual competitive price. Every client has been delighted at how their minds are clarified with ideas about how they can grow and improve their company.
We do not recommend any business system if there isn’t a business case and significant business benefits for it.
If you are happy with our proposal we would typically charge 10% of the approximate price at this point.
This is the most important phase of the project. However large or small the project, we will conduct some sort of ‘business analysis’ here. The aim is to establish and nail down a solid understanding of the process that the software is intended to support, and how it needs to work alongside the people who will be using it. We also need to understand how it will affect the rest of your organisation, and other parties such as your customers or suppliers. Typically this information will be gathered through a series of short meetings or interviews with key people.
The result of this stage is a requirements specification, which documents exactly what the software will do, and how it will do it. It also describes how information goes in to and out of the software.
The requirements specification may be accompanied by some mockup screenshots which illustrate specific parts of the process and show how we imagine the software to look. For larger projects we may provide very basic prototype software as part of the specification, if this demonstrates the desired functionality better than words alone, although such a prototype would not typically have any practical use.
Once the requirement is clearly defined, a final price will be arrived at for the project. This may differ from the approximate price if the architecture process reveals additional or different requirements from those first envisaged. This is perfectly normal in a well-planned project. (In a badly-planned project, additional costs would usually come as a surprise at the end!)
There may be no tangible or usable outcome to this part of the process, but it’s where the most value is added. At the conclusion of the architecture stage we will charge 40% of the final price, less the amount previously charged.
Just as nobody is obliged to use their architect’s favourite builder, you are free at this point to take the requirements specification and get it built by anyone you wish. We would, of course, rather you didn’t as we believe we are the best people for the job.
We will set about building the software following the requirements specification, and will keep you updated on progress as we go along. We’re more than happy to show you round the building as it takes shape.
As each area of the system’s functionality is completed, it gets handed over to someone else in our team for alpha testing. Alpha testing involves methodically checking that each of the functions in the requirements specification works, and achieves the desired outcome. An issue tracking system is set up to record any problems, which we then work through and adjust as needed.
Where you’ve asked us to do data conversions from existing systems, we will write the necessary routines at this stage and check that the data can be converted and migrated correctly. We will test these routines but typically we won’t use them again until it’s nearly time for the system to go live.
Alpha completion & beta testing
Once all the defined functionality is tested and working, the building process is complete. No new Change Requests (additional requirements) should be introduced after this point.
At this stage we draw up a test plan, which describes the tests that can be done to double-check that all the functionality is in place and working as specified. We will hand over a test copy of the software to you, which may have dummy data in, and assist you as required with working through the test plan. It’s at this point that we start to write whatever documentation, flow diagrams or manuals we’ve agreed are required.
The issue tracking system remains in place at this point; broadly speaking there are three kinds of issues:
Category 1 – severe issues which prevent the system working at all or cause data loss or corruption
Category 2 – problems causing undesired functionality or application errors
Category 3 – suggestions, minor changes to interface, or other issues that do not affect functionality or data
Included in the plan will be tests to ensure that any data conversion routines are fit for purpose.
At the conclusion of this stage we will charge 30% of the final price – a total of 70% paid so far.
Once all category 1 and 2 issues have been resolved the system can be considered Beta complete meaning that, apart from ‘polishing’, it is ready to be used.
At this point we will complete any documentation and provide whatever user training we have agreed upon. We like to spend plenty of time with the system’s users as it’s critical that they all understand and support the changes being made.
If there is server hardware to be set up, we will prepare this now, or liaise with your IT support people to get everything in place. Backup routines will be set up and tested.
Installation and commissioning
This is the process of turning on the new system and bringing it in to everyday use within your organisation. Often this involves decommissioning existing systems or processes as well so it needs careful planning to minimise business disruption. All testing and user training will be complete. We can do installations at night or over weekends if necessary. Any data conversion will be carried out at this stage, using the tools and processes that have already been tested and approved.
On the day of installation we will take payment of a further 25% of the final price – a total of 95% paid so far.
For a period of three months following installation, we offer free support as the new system beds in. We use a variety of remote access tools so most issues can be resolved very quickly.
At the conclusion of this three-month period we will take the final payment of 5%.
Many of our clients view us as strategic partners essential to the continued smooth running of their business. As an organisation evolves and develops, so should its systems. As architects and builders of the systems we will have an excellent understanding of the business and its processes, and are well placed to help and advise on what should be done next.