Pre-implementation analysis consists in workshops carried out prior to system implementation: a single meeting or a few meetings with all the groups of stakeholders on the side of the client, and representatives of a potential supplier (usually sales personnel, business analysts and developers). Next to numerous advantages, it allows to avoid a very wide pricing band that can result from cost estimation that is not preceded by detailed analysis.
Why a pricing band?
In a perfect situation, the client provides the vendor with project/product specifications that include the requirements that a cost estimation can be based upon, thus allowing to reduce the error margin. It is worth noting here that a well-prepared cost estimation of an IT project (irrespective of whether it is a project consisting in system implementation or development) always includes, and should include, a financial safety buffer for the investment, that is, the so-called pricing band. Why?
When we are dealing with a complex and long-term IT project, even the best business development specialist will not be able to estimate the work of developers, project managers and other members of the project implementation team with hourly accuracy. In the course of action it often becomes necessary to make changes or adjust assumptions. On the other hand, even the slightest budget underestimation may have a negative impact on collaboration on both sides. That is why the cost estimate should always include the range for which the client is financially prepared.
Pre-implementation analysis allows to avoid a very wide pricing band and makes a prices estimation more precise
The width of the pricing band is determined, among others, by the precision of the requirements received. When a potential supplier of a solution receives only some general assumptions, they have to assume a minimum option, as well as a maximum option, which may often surprise the client.
“When we do not have access to documentation, specifications or requirements collected (both technological and business-related), we assume that ‘anything’ can happen within the framework of such a project. As a result, the price estimate can fall within the range of e.g. 60 000 - 120 000 PLN. That is why, whenever possible, we offer pre-implementation analysis to potential clients, in the form of active participation in a workshop,” explains Miłosz Kocot, Business Development Specialist at Programa.
The analysis: why do we not want it?
Every project consisting in implementation or development of a dedicated IT system is carried out within the schedule assumed, often under time pressure. Even long-term jobs based on a very realistic schedule have to be started and finished as soon as possible.
This may cause reluctance in some of the clients, who see the pre-implementation analysis process as extending the project and starting it with “talks” instead of resolute actions. A well-executed pre-implementation analysis requires time, but in the end it actually reduces the project duration. By collecting and codifying the requirements, the development team led by the Project Manager is able to carry out its actions efficiently and according to the schedule established.
As a result of the pre-implementation workshop may be the shortening the project duration by up to several weeks
Moreover, the pre-implementation analysis is an efficient instrument supporting the communication between the client and the supplier. The mutual understanding of needs, requirements and expectations towards the final effect minimises the risk related to the necessity of numerous corrections in the project within its duration. Thanks to the pre-implementation analysis, both teams are well prepared to begin the project with full productivity starting from the very first days of work.
Another argument against the workshops is often the cost. Let us assume that an initial cost estimate amounts to 60 000 - 120 000 PLN. When hearing about the option to carry out a pre-implementation analysis, the client treats the workshop cost, estimated at about 10% of the project value, as an additional cost of the project. However, it is worth treating the time and funds dedicated to the analysis as an investment, not a cost. If we sum up the final costs (including the time of all the people involved in the project on both sides) of a project starting with an analysis, it often turns out that the execution of such project requires less time and money and we can fit the project e.g. within the total budget of 90 000 PLN.
Pre-implementation workshop becomes a standard procedure
The final effect of the workshop is the specifications - a document describing the business process being the object of the project, the requirements collected from the stakeholder groups, and the technologies recommended, together with a detailed project schedule. To put it simply – it is a detailed “recipe” for efficient execution of a project within feasible time and budget.
“The clients are more and more in favour of pre-implementation workshops being carried out. By investing their time and a fraction of funds dedicated to the whole project, the client takes an active part in creating the framework of cost estimation and strategy. It is already then that they have an opportunity to make their requirements more precise and correct any presumptive inconsistencies. We never encountered a situation where a client was unsatisfied with this process,” says Denis Pokotycki, Business Analyst at Programa.
5 proofs that everyone benefits from a pre-implementation analysis
1. Learning one’s objectives and needs; letting question asking experts into the company.
When making a decision to start a new IT project (irrespective of whether it consists in development of an already existing solution or creating a new one “from the basics”), the client usually focuses on the solution having to be a system that improves a specific process, e.g. production, logistics, or sales. They assume that implementing the system is going to solve their organisation’s problems automatically. However, it is rare that the client actually imagines how the solution to the problems is supposed to look and work in detail in order to improve such a process. That is why it is so important to carry out the workshops, where the specialists ask a series of question and try to find answers to the question of how the system has to be built in order to truly help the client in their work.
An inquisitive IT partner's team will ask a lot of questions during the workshop
The pre-implementation workshops assume active participation of representatives of all the groups to be involved in project execution. This makes it possible for the supplier’s team to obtain a complete image of the current situation and to collect as many information as possible. Skilfully asked questions can help establish the short- and long-term goals, take into account simultaneous events that may have impact on the project (new products, mergers, etc.) and specify precisely the effects expected after the implementation. When being a part of an organisation, in the course of everyday work it may happen that the long-term perspective disappears from our view, obscured by daily duties. By inviting an external team to the workshop, the client has an opportunity to see the horizon again.
2. Why buy a tanker when we need a yacht? Making the costs more realistic.
A new project often seems like a shiny new sports car, a gust of modernity and technology of tomorrow. However, what about the situation when we do not need a sports car, but a small electric vehicle that can be parked almost anywhere and relieves us from being worried about the pollution?
The pre-implementation analysis is a very effective way for making the needs more realistic. Novelties are obviously tempting, but an expensive and complex IT project is not going to ensure success if it is excessive. A reliable IT service provider is going to suggest the shape of the project that is adjusted to REALISTIC expectations and objectives already during the analysis. The tanker from our imagination may finally turn out to be an agile yacht, but it may also turn out that we do need a sports car instead of an EV, because we have to focus on acceleration from nil to one hundred.
The most important thing is to avoid unpleasant surprises during the final settlement: both when it comes to paying for unnecessary elements and when the scope of implementation turns out to be much wider than originally assumed.
3. Time invested in the analysis is going to pay for itself twofold... during the project.
An effective pre-implementation analysis requites active participation of the client’s representatives in document creation. Without going deep into the processes and needs of the organisation, the final document is going to be imprecise, which is against the whole idea of business analytics.
The time devoted to participating in the workshops is an investment. Involvement in the project starting from the phase before implementation allows gaining knowledge that is required to implement the project smoothly and reducing the total time it takes to do it. The additional profit comes from greater emotional attachment to the project, greater sense of responsibility for the project’s success and, through that, more peaceful and pleasant work.
The pre-implementation workshops have one more significant advantage. They provide actual savings. If the expectations towards the system created are not discussed prior to starting the project, every change in functions during the project duration costs a lot. It can be noticed perfectly on the pain diagram below, which says that the closer one is to design works, the less it costs – sometimes even nothing - to make changes and design functions. In analogy, the closer one gets to the end of the project, the more expensive the changes become.
"Pain diagram" - an example of the cost of changes in subsequent stages of the project
Own study based on M. Żmigrodzki "Zarządzanie projektami dla początkujących: jak zmienić wyzwanie w proste zadanie"
4. Involving the partner in the collaboration
Already at the stage of deciding to implement the project and choosing a potential supplier, it is worth involving a company that is a business partner, not only a contractor for performance of specific tasks, since the latter would not provide substantive support at each stage of the project.
The role of the whole pre-implementation analysis process is putting the maximum amount of energy into planning the project as precisely as possible. The approach based on partnership makes the work easier, assuming that the sales consultant working together with developers and a business analyst do their utmost in order for the project execution to provide the client with a number of benefits expected, and that both parties can use open communication to talk about opportunities and challenges and prepare a high-quality analysis document together.
It is also an opportunity to test a potential partner, learn the way they work, and evaluate whether the collaboration with them is good and worth continuing.
5. Result of the workshops? An objective document that provides freedom and confidence regarding decisions.
A measurable and “tangible” product of the workshops is the document that constitutes a detailed specification of the project planned: a set of requirements, specific objectives, budget and schedule.
Sometimes even mock-ups and prototypes can be the result of pre-implementation workshops
What is very important is that carrying out the pre-implementation analysis with supplier A does not determine collaborating with them during the implementation. The client receives a high-quality material that constitutes a basis for further talks with any software house. This results in a certain freedom when it comes to studying the market on one hand, and on the other the certainty that one makes a request for quotation fully prepared for further steps. In other words, investing in pre-implementation workshops is almost always justified.
The experience of the Programa’s team seems to suggest, however, that a collaboration that starts well with the workshops very often results in the project being continued within the framework of an already integrated team that worked together during the analysis phase.
Pre-implementation analysis is slowly becoming standard during implementation of IT projects. Both the clients and the suppliers value the advantages of such collaboration and the real profits in terms of time and money, thanks to which the execution of even complex implementation or development projects can be somewhat simpler
It is a step towards responsible business and investing funds in digital transformation based on data, knowledge and well-studied needs.