Team Mahout builds a virtual community

Building a virtual community with clients. It has been our practice to set up slack channels with each of our clients. This works great to promote communication. During the development process, our clients have nearly unlimited access to our development team. If there is something like a font change or a slight hue change in their company logo they have the ability to reach out to our designers directly. Or, if they have been thinking that they would be over the top if they could add an additional function that would allow them to collect emails of their visitors they can reach out to the project manager and see if that can be configured for their project. Ok, for all of you developers who are listening I know what you are thinking. HOW DO YOU MANAGE SCOPE CREEP. For those of you who are not familiar with that term, I will first explain scope creep and then explain our process with managing it,

Scope Creep is a widely used term that refers to a client who constantly asks for additional changes outside of the original agreement. Example: A client wants a simple brochure website for their company. Absolutely nothing fancy. A few pages that allow their brand to be seen on the web. Maybe a home page, a contact page, a FAQ page, and an about page. Simple. Then once everyone is in agreement they now would like to add a membership function and an upload section where visitors can submit pictures. That is scope creep.

How we handle scope creep. We set extensive in-person meetings with the client. We cover not only the basics but also let them dream. Once that process is completed we advise them of what the cost of their dreams will be. Sometimes the price is not a factor and we start the contract. Many times cost plays an important part in what they are able to do. In that case, we help them prioritize what will be the most beneficial to their company at this time. Then we start the contract process. Notice that with both scenarios there is a contract element. This is for protection, Sure. But it also to ensure each party fully understands what is covered and what is not covered.

So what about changing font or color hue or…. If we are in the development process and receive a small request like that you better believe we will accommodate our clients. If you are an experienced developer then you know how insignificant of a change that is. It is our experience that 30 seconds of your time to change a font or a hue is well worth the overall happiness of your client. The other side of the coin where a client asked for a complete change of the code base after the project has started is entirely a different animal. That is where you must do your part to educate the client. We explain to our clients what that would intel and how that would delay the project not to mention the unrecoverable hours of work already completed. To date, every client has understood our position and has either asked to draw a new contract to include these changes or decided that the change was not that important. I attribute this success to our level of communication on both the client’s side as well as from our staff.

This virtual community has been such a great success that we decided to take it even further. My company has access to multiple clients. Each with different strategies. Each with different techniques. We learn an awful lot from our interaction with them. Why not pass on that interaction between them? I know, I know this sounds crazy. You should NOT let your clients talk to one another. What if they discuss their pricing, what if one of them is unhappy, what if……. the list can go on and on. But, what if they could learn and share strategies. What if instead of trying to be a development company who is primarily concerned with our own bottom line. What if we share our knowledge and encourage them to share theirs. Let’s focus on our client’s bottom line and see if they can help each other be successful. That is exactly what we did. I am pleased to announce the tremendous success it has become. Win!!!

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