Imagine you are an entrepreneur or a manager in a company with substantial current cash flow. During the last months you observed that some of your competitors are vigorously pushing into the online field. Thus, you feel the urge to strengthen your online business in order to secure your future cash flow. You already have a brilliant idea how to increase your online revenues,  but you are rather insecure regarding its implementation.

Main reason behind this: when you approached your IT implementation (inhouse or external) they were not able to come up with realistic estimates and an implementation plan because for them, the idea was not specific enough. Hence, you are somewhat stuck in the gap between a brilliant idea and the corresponding, well defined implementation plan.

At Acrea, we are quite often dealing with clients who are facing such challenging situations. Our task then consists of bridging the mentioned gap between an initial idea and the implementation plan. So, here is a proven cookbook how to achieve this in 9 steps.

  1. Express your Idea and Goals: Start with writing down a description of your initial idea amended with input from other stakeholders. This forces you to be somewhat precise and to consolidate the idea description in a first round. Also, the initial goals of the project should be collected and expressed in writing. Keep in mind that the descriptions of the idea and the goals should be simple enough so that everyone can understand them.

  1. Collect initial Requirements: Start with a broad collection of requirements in a granularity that is adequate for this very early stage. You will soon recognize that this initial collection is very unstructured, thus it needs refinement along the way.

  1. Define a Business Architecture: A Business Architecture is a great mean to bring a first dimension of order into a mess of requirements. In its functional view the business capabilities of your target system are grouped into domains. These domains cover a specific area of functionalities of your business (e.g. CRM consisting of functionalities like Contact Management, Lead Management, Campaigns, etc.) and will help you e.g. to devise a proper application architecture later. Other elements of a business architecture are a business object model and a process model; depending on the situation at hand, their definition can also make sense.
    Although business architecture charts might look rather trivial at the end, coming up with them and refining them over time is a demanding task but worthwhile it.

  1. Specify your main Screens: At Acrea, we are getting nervous when digital transformation projects don't feature an information architecture, screen maps, and even some first wireframe sketches in a very early stage. Thus, get real and concrete very early on and design at least your main screens and the information objects that are expected to be shown on them.

  1. Work on your SEO Cornerstones: Online marketing is key to many online services and it is a necessity to make search engine optimization (SEO) an important element of your online marketing strategy. A good first preparation for SEO is to define your main landing pages and desired user navigation paths from these landing pages onward.

  1. Define an Application Architecture: Now that you have learned more about the gestalt of your future online system, you are ready to propose an application architecture in which each functional element of the business architecture can be mapped to an application. In addition, the application architecture contains information about interaction and communication between applications. This application architecture can later be used by the development team as starting point for defining the technical architecture.

  1. Don't forget Data Integration and Migration: In many situations, data needs to be integrated into the new system. Such data needs to be well understood to make an adequate judgment regarding feasibility and usefulness of integration. Also, if the plan foresees the replacement of an existing system, the data migration needs sound consideration (e.g. regarding data quality) early on.

  1. Make your own initial Project Plan: Before asking anyone else about estimated time and cost for delivery, create your own project plan. This forces you to make up your mind about various implementation aspects. Your project plan should not only include estimates on the timeline and costs of the implementation project but also some thoughts about the project setup regarding organization (e.g. the highly important team setup), and the process model (e.g. agile vs. iterative) to be used. An important driver behind these thoughts is the overall philosophy regarding launch of an initial product (e.g. MVP vs. full-fledged first release).

  1. Ask your Implementation Partner for a Project Plan and Technical Architecture: Thanks to the artifacts that were elaborated during your preparation phase (steps 1 to 7) the implementation partner (or multiple candidates for this role) should now be able to provide his own implementation plan, telling you how he would construct the system, how long it would take and how much it would cost. The construction plan defines the technical architecture of the system to be and complements the project plan in order to become a concrete proposal.

The completion of these last steps are establishing the preconditions needed for the calculation of your business case and the creation of a consolidated implementation project plan.