01 April 2006

Hard Truths

There are so many ways to do interactive development. The problem is that so few of them are right and (worse still) the ones that are right seem intuitively to be wrong.

The vast majority of methodologies, structures, processes and relationships are dangerous in that they seem very simple, logical, obvious and safe -- but are in fact wrong, bad and high risk.

I'm reasonably confident that the vast majority of professionals in this business know this - and know which of the various options actually are the (few) right ways. But most of us don't even try to sell these solutions to clients anymore. Even though they are right. Even though they would make the client happy (in the end). Even though they'd be better for us.

Because when we have tried - clients have invariably rejected us and gone with another vendor who has been willing to sell them the simple, logical, obvious wrong way.

Maybe I've been in this business too long now - but this situation is bothering me. I've been doing this for going on 15 years. I've seen what works and what doesn't. And the idea that we (the vendors) are knowingly selling a bad solution bothers me. And the idea that clients are, in fact, demanding this bad solution bothers me.

It's bad for everyone.

So - let's state some basic truths here.

1) Time & Materials engagements (with the right process and the right people) result in better products with decreased total (real) costs and better delivery against goals than engagements structured on a Flat Rate/Fixed Schedule basis.

2) The Waterfall process (as commonly implemented) is the best way to get a lowest common denominator result that no-one is happy with long-term (and only your purchasing department is happy with in the short-term).

3) No vendor does everything well.

4) Outsourcing your interactive work to a vendor doesn't mean that you can sit back and do nothing and be successful. You're going to need to invest time and money.

5) As relates to the above... 50% of the success of the product is due to your vendor (and 50% of the blame for the failure is due to the client).

6) Nothing is more effective at guaranteeing success that establishing a fair partnership with your vendor and making this relationship a long-term one that provides stability for the vendor.

7) Nothing is more likely to cause failure than: (if you're a vendor) trying to squeeze unearned money out of a client, and (if you're a client) trying to squeeze unpaid (or underpaid) work out of your vendor.

8) Honesty is key.

The above is a painful list.
The bad ideas are what we see in 95% of all engagements and the good ones seem present in less than 5% of all relationships.

How do we fix this?
I'd love to say that some vendor being brave and saying "this is the right way" would be the great first step. But that is not going to be enough. We're also going to need a client with courage to step up and say 'I want it done right' and we're going to need the media to pay attention to the resulting case study.

A man can dream.... right?


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