Improve a project without going over budget or sacrificing quality…

In our latest case study, Fruition director, Mark Green explains how to improve a project within budget.

Every client wants to be proud of their finished project. Deciding to create a new website, brand identity or business interior is a big commitment that will involve many decisions, supplying lots of information and time processing the consequences of change.

Any experienced designer or project manager will know there are three fundamental factors that influence how a project is delivered these are – budget, quality and time. Of these three, only two can be priorities. It doesn’t matter which two, but they will always adversely affect the third. Quick and cheap will sacrifice quality. Quick and high quality and cost control will go out of the window.

Fruition work with many seasonal businesses that have a winter ‘off’ season. This is really useful because you can undertake major change without affecting the business end of the trading year and therefore profits. The down side of this is that in peak operational periods all resources are focused on day to day tasks and medium or long term goals often get overlooked.

In many cases seasonal businesses will wait until the end of the peak period before identifying improvements for the coming winter. In this instance it is likely the clock is already ticking and the opening date for the new season has already been set. Therefore your time resource is now fixed and as a result either the budget or the quality will now be you only room for flexibility.

Lets look at a hypothetical project time line. In this example all the critical activity will occur at times of the year that either disrupt trade or require your input during busy periods.

Typical Project Phases

Every project will have periods where client input is critical and periods when your design team will be busy preparing information for you to approve, comment on or amend. In the example above stages 1 & 2 are driven by the client, Stage 3 will be periodic design approval meetings, Stage 4 the same, Stage 5 you will want to be closely involved and Stage 6 it is all about the client team making use of the new resource.

The example above would cause problems for any business with a busy summer trading period and waste most of the quiet season waiting for design information to implement. Disrupting the business in mid season would not make any sense. So the options are postpone, lower the scope of the project or rush.

Lets look at some of the individual items that make the 6 Stages and why it could take the time shown.

Stage 2 Appoint Design Team. This will require the design team to present you with a fee proposal based on your known requirements and it is very likely there will be some negotiations and clarification. Many projects require more than one ‘design’ input and this may not be apparent until the detailed brief is agreed. In the case of a building project, structural, listed building consent and planning could all require additional advice. Web and digital projects may require specific coding knowledge, photography or illustration for example.

As a client you will want to understand who is involved, what they will do and how much will it cost.

Stage 3 Design Period. Whilst this stage is where the project starts to come to life, client involvement will only be required after work stages have been completed and are ready for presentation.

Stage 4 Procurement & Approvals. This stage is all about pulling together all the elements to ‘build’ the finished product. Again this can take time and relies on others to receive and respond to requests for prices, approvals or technical information.

Whilst both Stage 3 & 4 are critical they do not require long periods of client involvement.

Stage 5 Implementation. This is where the project takes it’s finished form and you as a client will want to be on hand to see it happen. In the case of a web project, content and data will be required. In the case of refurbishment, there will be disruption and relocation issues affecting staff and facilities. Without good communication with the client programmes can slow down at this stage.

Stage 6 Training & Launch. Even the if the project is delivered on time and without any visual or functional issues, staff and customers take time to adapt. Completing the project outside of the peak trading periods will reduce the levels of stress for staff, customers and most importantly, you the client.

So what can we do?

Project Programme B. The timeline below starts the design appointment in April, when most of the close season work should be completed and the summer season has yet to get going. The frustrations of the unfinished projects should still be fresh in your mind and you can act on them. Give time to the design in the shoulder period and get the process well underway before the season takes over all your resources.

A well considered project programme gives you and your design team the resource needed to keep control of costs and quality – time.

Project B is the same theoretical project time line with a start date at the beginning of the summer season. However, in this example, the tasks requiring Critical Client Input are outside the summer season. Project delivery is well before the new season starts. There is a dedicated soft launch and training period before the high season starts. There is space for the end of season staff holidays and the Christmas break.

An effective project time line puts you in control of project timeline, which in turn means you have time to consider quality and costs.

If you are planning a new project but not sure where to start, please contact me markgreen@fruition-design.co.uk

My team and I have a wealth of experience in delivering creative and effective design solutions. We are happy to come to your business for a free, no obligation project review.

To see a selection of web, print and commercial interior work can be see on our Projects page.