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Contrary to what you might have learned from The Sound of Music, when you are planning a new web site or a new feature for an existing site, you need to begin at the end by defining the GOAL and the WHY of what you are trying to accomplish.  What is the benefit for your customers and your organization?

I was in a meeting the other day when this point was brought home again.  A client was considering adding some new functionality to their site and and changing the integration with their ERP system.  This was not a small job.  Licensing on the ERP side was going to be $25,000 for the necessary web services before we updated the design, coded our side of the integration, and tested our work.  If I had to hazard a guess, they were looking at $40k+ in total costs to get it rolling between our work and additional licenses.

The how for the project was easy. It was just writing a bunch of code.  The goal was clearly defined and was well within the capabilities of the ERP, our platform, and our programmers.  What no one was clear on though was WHY we were doing it.

Customers were not clamoring for the functionality.  The existing setup was not causing problems for the company. By simply asking why we were looking at the project, we were able to save our client a whole bunch of money.  I am not saying the project will never get done, just that right now there is no clear reason that we could think of to do it.  At least not $40,000 of reason. Maybe we didn't have all of the information, or maybe we forgot how we got there, and maybe in a couple of day we will figure it out, but for today at least, that project is on hold.

As part of our partnerships with our clients, we take a long term view.  So I didn't get the sale this month.  No big deal.  In the long run, by helping our customers use their resources more effectively, they will grow faster and we will have more opportunities in the future.  I would rather our client kept money in their pocket or spent it on other projects than rushed into a project with no purpose.
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