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How to formulate a development request: a guide for entrepreneurs

After analyzing more than 500 development requests, we identified key problems and issues that make communication between entrepreneurs and studios difficult. In this article, we share a guide on how to formulate requests that are precisely understandable to all parties. Learn how to clearly define goals, structure expectations, and make your next IT project a success.

Hi, I'm Maxim from Sailet. We specialize in custom development, have been working since 2017, have completed many interesting projects, talk about automation and develop our EDMS.

Constantly communicating with entrepreneurs, we know that many of them spend a huge amount of their time, and not only their own, searching for an IT contractor: “to develop a system.” After that, they say that there are few specialists on the market, companies do not understand them, and in general all these studios are “fu fu fu". I decided to make a detailed manual for all future customers, which, I hope, will improve the lives of many. Let's go!

The goal indicates the direction of the entire project. If you do not understand why you need this system, you can finish at this stage. It is easier for it to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and temporarily limited (classic, SMART). No contractor will form a goal for you, because that will be their goal.

Steps to define a goal:

  • Defining a problem or need - and what do I want to solve/get from the future system?
  • Defining the target audience - and who will use my system at all? Employees are also an internal target audience. Lidiya Mikhailovna in accounting and Sergey Fedorovich in production, depending on the task, can be one segment. 20-year-old support specialists for others.
  • Analysis of the market and competitors - and what do they have and how does it work? Do I even need my product? We received a couple dozen requests for the development of a taxi service (“I want a brother like Yandex"). The questions “why?” or “what's the purpose?”Naturally, they remained unanswered.
  • Goal formulation - I hope that SMART has already become a classic everywhere. If suddenly not, then the responsibility for understanding at this moment is on the speaker. I.e., the goal cannot be “I want the company to take off” or “I do it because competitors have it” or “we need to master the budget". These are real examples…
  • Prioritization of needs - what is more important right now? “We want to automate the entire company, make a single portal”, most often means we don't know what we want, the processes are not described.
  • Stakeholder engagement - do users need a system? It is clear that most people are afraid of the new, but here is the classic change management, first we sell and deliver value, then we implement and train.
  • Documentation - it is clear that the great “Agil” tells us that a working product is more important than comprehensive documentation, but this does not negate it as a whole. There should always be a guideline, and what is not written is not true.

Tools for determining the goal:

  • Mind Mapping (MindMeister, XMind): It helps to visualize your idea and puts it on the shelves.
  • Surveys (Google Forms, SurveyMonkey): Use them to get feedback from a potential audience to understand their needs.

Of course, at the stage of sale, when a request comes to us, if it is “ours”, we formulate it, transfer it to mindmap, make the structure of the project, etc. Below are a couple of examples of what it might look like. You can submit a request by following the link. We don't do it for everyone, only after qualification, because it's free.

Format 1:

Format 2:

Format 3:

All formats actually work, the main thing is to be able to apply them. 

Examples of incorrect queries and their analysis

Let's look at three simple query examples and why they may not meet the requirements of a high-quality query.

  • The request is too general: "We need a website for our business."
  • Problem: Lack of details. It is unclear what type of site is needed, what functions it should perform, and who the target audience is.
  • Request without budget and deadlines: "We want to develop a mobile application for online courses."
  • The problem: The lack of a specific framework. It is difficult for the developer to evaluate the project and offer solutions that meet the customer's limitations.
  • A technically overloaded request from a layman: "We need a React application using GraphQL for the backend and Firebase for authentication."
  • The problem: Technological preferences without a goal and task. Maybe it's a pyramid or a web service on the “bare C”?
  • A brief description of your business. At least the name of the company. Many are even afraid to leave it in shape. We'll Google it ourselves)
  • The purpose of the project. According to SMART, aerobatics. But at least a short one.
  • Description of the task that the project should solve.
  • The target audience, including the internal one.
  • A list of must-have functions. It's very top-level, but nevertheless.
  • Realistic budget and time frame of the project. “I'm looking for an ERP, a budget of $ 2000” leads only to an independent open source.
  • Links to similar products or features that inspire you. If there is, of course.

Examples of correct queries

Name: Company “X” 

Request: We are looking for a team to create a mobile application that helps users form and track daily habits. The goal is to launch an MVP in 4 months with the functions of creating habits, reminders and progress analytics. CA is a young professional 25-35 years old. The budget is up to $20,000. As an example, consider 'Habitica' and 'Todoist'."

Title: “Teaching and period”

Request: You need to create a web platform for advanced training courses. Task: to provide access to educational materials, video lectures and tests with the ability to track academic performance. There are 1000 students on the course. The target audience is adults aged 30-45 years. The project budget is limited to $ 10,000, the deadline is up to 6 months. Examples for reference are 'Coursera' and 'Udemy'."

Title: Sailet LLP

Request: we plan to develop a system for automating inventory accounting for small retailers. We want to simplify the inventory and accounting of goods, reduce the time for data processing for small store owners. The project budget is up to $ 40,000, the desired implementation period is 3 months. Desired functions: barcode scanning, integration with existing accounting systems, reporting. We focus on the functionality of 'Square' and 'Shopify'."

These are examples of real queries, slightly adjusted and depersonalized.

In fact, we have two target groups with whom the work is built a little differently. It is clear that there are dozens of times more points in the qualification, but globally: the first are people / companies with an idea, the second are companies with processes. Therefore, these 2 scenarios are described below.

  • Idea Description: Start with a general description of your idea. Focus on the problem you want to solve and the potential target audience. Don't worry about the technical details; your job is to convey the vision.
  • Expected impact: Describe how your idea can improve the life or work of your target audience. This will help developers understand the value of the project.
  • Research: Share the results of any preliminary research you have conducted, including competitor analysis or surveys of potential users.
  • Functional expectations: Even if you cannot fully describe all the functions, specify the key functions that you think will be important. Use the format "I would like users to be able to..."
  • Questions and gaps: Honestly identify any questions or uncertainties you have about the project. This may include technical capabilities, scaling in the future, cost, how to maintain it all, the number of iterations of edits, etc.
  • Current process: Describe the existing process, taking into account its steps, participants and tools used. This will allow developers to figure out where to start. You can read how to do this here.
  • Problems and disadvantages: Clearly indicate what problems you are facing in the current process. These can be delays, frequent errors, or high operating costs.
  • Desired automation: Specifically describe what steps or tasks you would like to automate. If possible, specify your preferred technologies or platforms. Often, processes are formed and described in companies of at least 50 people who already have their own IT specialist.
  • Expected result: Outline what improvements you expect from automation, including any specific metrics of success you are aiming for.

More information about the processes can be found here.

Of course, I “strangled” a little and it may seem to you that I am shifting responsibility to you (the future customer), because high-quality service = service. But, the responsibility for the success of the project always lies on two sides. If you do not need your project at the start and you are not ready to invest time in it, figure it out, formulate something there, then you will finish it with a probability of 1% (indicated as a stat. error).

I don't know if it's clear from the article that we take our work responsibly, mess with processes and try to provide the best service (there is no limit to perfection) and are able to develop (you can read this in previous articles, for example). But if you suddenly do not understand, you can leave a request on the website and we will tell you about a dozen more advantages, about the demo result every week, transparency of processes and, of course, flexible payment for packages of hours. Everything is as the credo of entrepreneurs says: minimizing risks, maximizing profits. Good luck!

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