Changing how the Public Sector Budgets for Websites
“Strive for Continuous Improvement, Not Perfection” - Kim Collins, Track & Field Olympian
At Parallel Public Works, we work with a lot of public sector organizations ranging from state departments, intergovernmental councils/associations, and public universities. Most contracts we sign with the public sector are for a mid to large size website re-design effort, including a 3-6 month warranty period and an additional continued support/maintenance agreement. Generally speaking, we continue on as long term partners after site launch, supporting what we initially built and delivered to the client. Any new features or additional work that is beyond the scope of the original project requires a new budget and scope of work to be drafted, evaluated, and approved before any new additions and features can be added to the site.
As we all know, technology changes rapidly and our user’s needs ebb and flow. Projects are now ongoing, iterative processes that require content and security updates, refinement of existing features, and the identification of new features that are needed to keep up with the needs of the end user.
Currently, the framework of how the public sector budgets and allocates funds for web projects hinders the fluid and continuous progress that is in now required for all successful technology projects. This often includes paying a lump sum at each deliverable point up to site launch and release to the public. This creates an unrealistic expectation of perfection regarding the final deliverable of the site which can delay the completion of the project, causing frustration for both our clients and our team. Additionally, having to vet, bid, and budget for inevitable improvements and site additions means new features are often months, possibly years, behind the technological shifts in the industry.
With all this in mind, we decided that instead of trying to fit the current realities of the web industry into a stale framework or a limited budget, let’s re-imagine the structure of our contracts so that they can support the build out of an initial product that can be continuously improved during the course of our partnership with our clients.
In an effort to help the organizations we work with reap long term benefit of their technology investments, we now propose contracts based on a “Continuous Improvement” (CI) model where an application or project is typically launched within 6-9 months while the the cost is spread out over 24-36 months. After the initial application is launched we then work with our clients to adjust and improve what was delivered, making sure that our work meets the project’s specifications and business objectives. Unlike a typical post-launch warranty or support contact, a CI contract gives us the flexibility to change our approach to a problem rather than just fixing unexpected bugs.
This approach lowers the cost of entry for governmental agencies with limited annual funds and allows them the opportunity to build a website within the desired time frame, while also allowing the vendor to be available to augment features as needed without the bureaucratic hoops of additional budgeting processed for feature updates.
Some benefits to a Continuous Improvement (CI) model of contracting web development:
Lower cost of entry: Clients do not have to compromise the initial release of a new site to fit within a constrained budget.
Predictable payments: A project is broken down into fixed monthly fees which eases annual or biennial budget planning.
Ongoing feature adjustments: Clients will be able to adjust/add features post launch after real world testing with users in order to better meet the project’s business objectives.
Lowers accounting overheard: Once a CI contract is place, small tasks to update a project can be completed without additional budget requests, helping increase overall operational efficiency.