In the previous article, we discussed «7 effective steps to prepare for automation». Let’s assume that they have been completed and we know for sure that personal automation is necessary for the business.
1. Requirements aggregation
Goals of requirements aggregation:
1. Determine the goals and objectives of the future project;
2. Identify competitive advantages and user expectations;
3. Determine the exact budget and deadlines;
4. Formulate the structure, priorities, and vision.
Goals and objectives are often confused, but these are two different entities. The goal is more high-level and answers the question: «What effect is expected after successful implementation?». For example:
Project goal — to accelerate the processing time of customer requests and launch into production.
The task is a more specific entity. There are many methodologies for setting tasks. We use SMART. That is, the task must be: specific, achievable, measurable, significant (realistic), and time-bound. For example:
By the end of the month, reduce the processing time of customer requests by 20% by implementing a request acceptance system and training 50% of operators.
There are extended versions of the SMART methodology that add more task parameters.
- and others.
Everyone chooses what suits their needs.
Example of a implemented project:
To reduce the costs of servicing and maintaining company clients by creating an automated web system.
- Speed up the process of adding a new company by 90%;
- Exclude the operator from the process of adding a company;
- Reduce request processing time by 20%;
- Exclude the operator from the reporting generation process;
- Add recurring payments with companies.
2. Competitive advantages and user expectations
If you have reached the automation stage, you already have a competitive advantage.
There are several types of competitive advantages:
You may have one clear advantage, or you may have a little bit of everything.
To understand what is really important, you need to use 2 key techniques:
1. In-depth survey of current customers;
2. Competitive analysis.
I won’t go into technology, as it is mainly a marketing function. Here are the main ones listed:
1. SWOT analysis;
2. Porter’s analysis;
5. From 4P to 7P.
This used to look like this for us before. Where red is direct competitor, yellow is direct competitor with additional services, green is not our segment, and blue is a potential partner.
3. Determine the budget and timeline.
- There is no such thing as an average price in the development market. The same project can have a range with a spread of 10x, both in terms of cost and implementation time.
The matter is not at all about the greed of the owner. There are enough processes inside that are sometimes not evaluated. Testing environment, management, project testing, team professionalism, workload, training, and much more. Even the use of paid/free/proprietary graphics with or without copyright.
Most often, the business surveys several studios and creates a competitive sheet with an approximate range and key advantages.
But, you need to understand only 2 parameters:
- Will the competitor company complete the project?
- Will the investments be profitable?
To assess the first parameter, you need to look at the following:
- Process building;
- Relevant experience;
- Approach to work at the initial stages;
- Promises — result;
- Ratings, portfolio, reputation.
The second parameter is more complicated. Calculate the following data:
ROI = Investments/Expected result in money * 100%
Often, ROI is only calculated based on direct costs, forgetting about indirect ones. For example, the costs of training employees for an updated process, implementing a system, possible user churn, etc.
To estimate the projected timelines and costs, the following methods can be used:
- Gaussian bell curve;
- Poisson distribution;
- Top-down/bottom-up approach;
- Game theory method;
- Earned value method.
However, for businesses, this is often rocket science, so relevant teams are selected and the project starts. Alternatively, flexible project management methodologies are used. I will talk more about this in the next file.
Example of estimating the range of labor costs in hours.
4. Creating a technical task
Depending on the planned project management format, different technical task formats are required.
In the classic waterfall model, the technical task is the main document.
The technical task should include:
- Goals and objectives;
- Description of design and prototype;
- Project structure;
- Description of functional blocks;
- Description of special requirements;
- Safety requirements;
- Cost and implementation time;
- Acceptance criteria for work;
- Description of the process.
Half of these items are either insufficiently or excessively detailed. The second half is interpreted in two ways.
We recommend describing the main project milestones and decomposing tasks into sprints. Even a preliminary technical assignment is useful for all parties, as it forms an understanding of the result for all parties.
List of tools that can help:
- Microsoft Project;
- Google Docs;
- and many counterparts.
Example of describing processes for automation:
Example of a mind map of one of the modules to demonstrate the structure.
Above, we have described the key stages that will allow you to form a clear and understandable result from the launch of automation.
All of this can be delegated. However, I hope that I have completed the task and you now have a clear understanding of the process of forecasting results.
In the next file, I will discuss flexible project management methodologies and how we use them for their management.