Finding New Techies: Spend 45 Minutes, Save Lots

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When you decide you want some new technology, hopefully you already have a relationship with a person who knows what you want. But every so often, you'll need to find someone new. People move on, sometimes they just fade away, sometimes what you want isn't what they do.

When you go shopping for a new tech company to support you, do a little homework first by documenting what you have and what you need.   This is a 45 minute exercise and it will help you avoid having to tell the same story more than once. This is a one, two page max, document that has three parts: The Summary, Technology and Deliverables.

A. Exec Summary

1. Your team - A short paragraph of your group with emphasis on how members interact with the technology. e.g., Is there at least one person in the office that will be able to handle basic maintenance?

2. Current state - Describe what you have now. Try to include metrics like number of pages if you're asking for someone to convert the site.  e.g., Type into Google to count pages.

3. Future state - What do you need to new site to do?  e.g., We want a place on the home page where people can enter their name and email address and then have that inserted into our contact manager for follow-up. Also, it should send a text message to our phones to let us know leads are waiting to be answered.

4. What's broken? - If there's something about the site that's not working, list that here. e.g., When you go to page xyz, the screen turns black and funny music starts to play.

B. Technology

1. Current  - e.g., Our existing site is old HTML that was created years ago. We don't really know what technology it's using. ... or We are running an version 1.2 of Wordpress.

2. Hosting - Where you are hosted is important if you are requesting some new technology. e.g., If you wanted us to install Joomla for you and you told us you were on PowWeb or 1and1, we would know immediately that you would need to change hosts or find someone else to do the work. (Not all hosts are well suited for all applications)

3. Registrar - Where are your domain names held? If you need to move your site to another host, you'll need to not only know where your names are held but also the ID/password to make changes. Finding the registrar is the easy part.  We've run into projects that screeched to a halt because some ex-employee owned the domain name, who of course, could no longer be located.

C. Deliverables

1. Your desired timeline - When does this have to be done? I've seen a two week project drag on for a year. If you don't have a deadline, then make one up.   Developers are better with deadlines.  (Also, timelines have milestones.  Things never get done all at once.)

2. Expectations/Exclusions - e.g., Must display indentically in both Firefox and IE. Must include all valid HTML when tested via Email accounts must connect to Outlook... We do not need this connected to our email drip system...

3. Support expectations - How much help will you need when it's done?  Training?  Who gets alerted if the server croaks at 2am?  Who do you call when something breaks?   It's normal to expect at least a month of support when a new site is installed.  Write down the expectations for short and long term support.

4. A budget/payment schedule - How much do you have to spend and how will you release it to them? e.g., 25% to start, 25% when milestone 2 is hit, the balance when it's installed and running on our server.  (If you don't know how much it will cost, then leave the budget part out -- but include the payment terms)   This is an ideal starting point to obtain quotes you can compare.

FYI: The cost for web work can be all over the map. I can take the same specification and get quotes from $500 to $5000. (I've done this as a test locally and the range for a simple 8 page site ranged from $1,400 to $5,400)  A high price does not guarantee high quality.   Quality is the result of what standards a person uses to guide their work.


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