Get a finalized spec as much as possible

If you develop software or web apps, you’ve most likely experienced working off of an incomplete spec.  I have, and it’s tremendously frustrating when all the work you’ve developed so far needs to be changed all of sudden because you followed the spec!

So here are some points to keep in my mind and push for before you start any kind of development:

  1. Make it clear to your client, whether it be an internal department or actual client, that you won’t be able to work on the project unless a finalized spec is delivered to you.  If they can’t give you one, wear the project manager hat and obtain it yourself by way of interviewing, document gathering, etc.
  2. If you have a spec and see any TBDs in the spec, write down questions that will assist your client help you finalize that portion of the spec.
  3. If the TBDs in the spec can’t be finalized or answered, i.e., the client doesn’t know what he/she wants, build a mock up or shell to show him/her, as it might help the client envision what he/she needs and most likely give you the answer you need.
  4. Give and allocate yourself enough development time for you to complete the project.  I personally add at least a week, on top of the time I believe I can complete it.  This way I have time to resolve bugs or unforseen issues, and…if I complete it earlier, then I look good.  =0)
  5. Most importantly, set the expectations of your customer – especially with regard to item #4.  Let them know what the end product will look like, functions it will provide, etc.  This is why building a mock up or showing the client a reference early in the development process is important.

There will be times where some – or maybe all – of these points may not apply, but try to push for them anyway.

Thanks to a good friend of mine, Dave Mercer, for making this weigh heavily in my mind!

Take care.