Discover the crucial importance of specifications to the success of a project. Learn how to clearly define objectives, budget and functionalities, while benefiting from essential tips for successfully drawing up your specifications.
Specifications are generally created at the start of all projects, whether new or redesigned, to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same wavelength and understand what needs to be achieved. It defines the functional scope.
The specification provides all stakeholders with a clear, shared understanding of the project, its objectives and requirements, and is an essential tool for communication, coordination and management of the project throughout its lifecycle.
Specifications can include the following elements:
While it’s essential to draw up specifications to align technical, sales and marketing teams, management and any potential service providers… at the start of a project, it’s also important and essential not to try to make them a rigid, exhaustive framework.
Indeed, the scope and context of each project change and evolve very rapidly. The risk of drawing up a “long-winded” specification would be to end up with a project that is already obsolete or unsuitable several months after its launch.
Today, with the Agile method, Scrum and Lean Management, we tend to consider that specifications should be short and deliverable as quickly as possible, to avoid silo effects that can create lengthy, and therefore discourage developers, but above all produce dissatisfaction for customers with a project that is perpetually out of step with the market and the state of the art.
Furthermore, specifications are a starting point for alignment and discussion, not a substitute for communication during the project.
The customer should never assume that “everything has been said” just because a specification has been delivered to the technical teams.
This stage may seem simple, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most delicate. This is because product, technical and marketing teams can tend to project what they think they know about customers onto the project.
Without calling into question the expertise and vision of these teams, it’s important, in this phase of the project, to be able to distance oneself from one’s beliefs.
To do this, you need to listen to the customer and not try to impose a preconceived vision on what he or she has to say. We told you it wasn’t easy! Here are 5 techniques, or tips, for identifying customer needs:
Once you have identified the customer’s needs, you can define the project’s specific objectives by following these steps:
Having firmly specified requirements and aligned all stakeholders, the rest of the project and subsequent decisions should “flow” naturally and simply.
Functionalities can be technical aspects, processes, services or product components. To identify the most important functionalities, distinguish between “must-haves”, without which the project loses its meaning, and “nice-to-haves”, which come as an “extra” and are of the order of comfort.
Here are the points to be defined:
Here’s another tricky part: it’s all about budgeting the project correctly, in other words, being realistic and pragmatic. A calculation that’s too tight will put the team straight into difficulty. Conversely, if the milestones lack ambition, the project is likely to wither over time.
Several methods and approaches can be used to define project costs. Here are some of the most common methods:
Bottom-up estimating: this method involves estimating the cost of each individual task or activity, then adding these costs together to obtain the total cost of the project. This approach is often considered the most accurate, as it takes into account the details of each task.
Top-down estimation: in this approach, the total cost of the project is estimated on the basis of similar projects or past experience. Costs are then allocated to individual activities and tasks. This method is generally faster, but can be less accurate than bottom-up estimation.
Parametric estimation: this method uses mathematical models or ratios to estimate costs as a function of certain variables, such as project size, complexity or duration. Historical data and previous projects can be used to establish these models.
This is essential to the success of any project. Here are a few steps:
Drawing up effective specifications is crucial. Here are a few key points to bear in mind when drafting them:
Well done, you’ve made it through the tricky stages. Now it’s time to present the result to your customer. This may be the end customer for an in-house project, or an intermediary if you’re an agency, for example. Here again, you need to be flexible.
A major success factor is not to get “too attached to your solution”, as we are wont to say in project management. The mistake would be to say that your CDC is the only way to approach implementation. You have to be able to accept feedback… in spite of the work involved.
Plan a presentation stage during which you’ll receive the customer’s feedback, and another in which… you’ll actually integrate it. Plan regular communication points to reassure the customer. Finally, it may seem obvious, but ask for final validation of all your specifications.
When in doubt about a new or particularly complex project, don’t hesitate to seek expert advice. The time and budget involved are rarely foreseen, and allow you to move forward serenely.