In order to make the business happen, I started to list out all the key tasks that had to be completed prior to launch. Against each task, I listed a person responsible for delivering on the task, and its completion date.
For many of the external tasks, the specification was still incomplete. This was more work for me! Part of the process was understanding the dependencies of the tasks. While it was obvious in many cases that the horse goes before the cart, in many others, particularly when I was co-ordinating the inputs of 2-3 others, this became more complex. In some of the more technical areas, I placed the responsibility on experts to do the co-ordination, but I still wanted to retain overall control of the project.
Co-ordinating the marketing strategy and the technical elements of the website was the biggest challenge. A certain look and feel was essential, but there were costs associated with what was required.
While the business requirements of the website had been well defined, there were technical details that needed further specification. Often what seemed like a simple request, required a large amount of coding, or had major implications on maintenance. So some hard decisions had to be made on the level of automation and functionality, while still keeping the original vision in place.
The equation was- more automation- higher upfront cost, less automation- more maintenance and higher running costs. Add into this mix, a high investment in automation at the beginning of a new business where the processes had yet to be tested might incur later costs as these processes were re-written in light of operational experience. It would always be possible to automate manual tasks later if they became burdensome. The economic benefit would be obvious at the time. But it was still clear that there would be a need for a significant amount of automation to make the business easier to run.
Part of the original vision was that the service being offered was to be priced at a low enough level as to create a new market, but it was not to be subsidised by my existing business. Therefore running costs had to be kept low.
There were also some pleasant surprises as well. Often, what I thought might be technically difficult was quite straight forward due to the technical platform used by my web designer.
All through this detailed specification process, the original definition and clarity of vision was absolutely crucial. It was always clear to me what compromises I could make and which ones were non-negotiable. If I had not completed that work initially, the business would have become badly flawed – held together by digital band aids and elastic bands- and looking like that to my potential clients.
Before you plan your business, a clear vision of what the business will look like is absolutely critical.
Once the key specifications had been completed, there remained an additional specification step- tp fully specify the business processes- which required the defining the offline and online interfaces.
The next article in Diary of a Business will be: Detailing Workflow Processes