Methods and Practices
Our way of doing business can be summed with an old aphorism; “You dance with the one that brung ya.” No matter what the work we’re doing is, we keep in mind that it’s our job to make the client look good, and our responsibility to remain loyal in both letter and spirit to the arrangement. Many of our clients are actually other consultants and consulting firms, and in all cases it is critical that they know Northern Collaborative Technologies can be trusted to work in their best interests at all times.
Unlike many firms, at Northern Collaborative Technologies we are frequently able to do even complex development projects at fixed cost. Our years of experience with the tools mean we know how to determine the time and effort required, and a fixed cost project is often preferable as it allows for the best use of the budget. Fixed cost projects are billed in phases, each being marked with a specific deliverable that can be assessed by the client. No surprises.
Our design philosophy is simple. All development must be reusable, extensible, and manageable. The belief that you'll ever build something once is a false one. Whenever possible, we use a four step methodology to create solutions that accurately fit the design specification, yet remain extensible for future re-use. This methodology is flexible, and not all aspects will apply to all customers, but as a framework for success is it unrivaled
PHASE 1. THE DISCOVERY PHASE
Initial assessment is no small task, and should be given every bit as much consideration as any other stage of the project. While you-- the client-- usually have a pretty good idea of what you're looking for, it can take the consulting team a good deal of work to understand the internal project language and all the unsaid design goals. Corporate culture can be the enemy of a successful project if you're not careful, because all those things you take for granted as "the way things are" may be unknown to your consultants, or subtly different from your end users' beliefs and experience. There are two distinct deliverables, first is the requirements and implementation plan. This makes no mention of cost, and has value in its own right as a road map to the completed project. The second deliverable is a quote for the implementation of that plan, and includes the information the client needs to understand the cost and time involved in implementing the project.
PHASE 2. THE DEVELOPMENT PHASE
The Development Phase is usually where the bulk of the time is spent. It is the implementation of the project plan developed in the Discovery Phase, up to the point where the application is feature complete according to the initial specification, plus any mutually agreed changes that have been accepted by both the client and the consultant.
PHASE 3. THE BETA TEST & FUNCTIONAL ACCEPTANCE
This is the client's first real exposure to the application and will very likely produce change orders. Any misconceptions or omissions from the discovery phase will be most apparent here. Bugs will also be found and must be handled. Working closely with our clients, we try to complete this phase carefully but quickly, avoiding significant design changes where possible.
PHASE 4. DEPLOYMENT AND FINAL ACCEPTANCE
Handling this correctly is critical and must be carefully planned. Additional support resources are often required during the rollout phase. A good, well planned rollout phase with the right level of support and training can mean the difference between success and failure for the project in the long term. For most users of the finished project, the rollout phase is their first contact with the highly anticipated new tools.