In my 25 plus year career of performing mechanical design engineering and being a consultant, it has been my experience that the death and success of any project is only as good as the requirements established and worked. Nothing better than hearing the words from your clients, “I have another job for you” or “would you like to work for us direct”. What makes clients say this? The secret is integrity coupled with an understanding and meeting of the client’s requirements.
Engineering 101 teaches us the basic systems engineering approach of: 1) define your need, 2) develop your requirements, 3) develop the concept, 4) verify the concept met the requirements, and 5) turn the design \ product over to the customer. This simplistic approach has proven time and time again to yield good results. Requirements are the basis of a design and provide the foundation of which to build and test against. Without them, you are flying blind which results in high costs and extended schedules. Some consultants love this and this is how they make their money by capitalizing on the clients lack of requirements.
Taking the time to really understand what is needed before putting pen to paper or mouse to program, can really pay for its self. No matter the size of the project, this technique is critical. When a client sees you have heard what they want, and you document it, then you can focus on the critical aspects of the design and thus meet your clients’ needs including saving money and time. As the requirements get established, prioritize them with the client. This again gives a focus for the designer and provides a better position for understanding when a requirement is not met.
For clients with limited budgets, having the requirements established allows the design firm or person to be in a better position when changes occur, and yes they will occur. It is so typical for companies to bid low and rely on change orders to make up for the under bidding. However, this technique is a risk and has caused several companies to go under, especially a small company supplying to a large company.
Having the requirements provides a defensible position when testing is required. Often projects can morph into wonderland and the reason for what is being done gets lost in the forest. This results in poor relationships between all parties. This really comes to light when testing is done. If testing performed does not match what the requirements are, the testing is a waste of time and money. “We didn’t know that was important therefore we didn’t test it.” “I didn’t know you wanted to bring the spaceship home, I thought you wanted it to just go there…”. This is a bad day.
Ever wonder why one car out sells over another? The reason, customers have differing requirements and car companies recognize this. Some likem fast, some likem safe, some likem versatile, and some likem cheap. The funny thing is, they all meet the one requirement, they get you from point A to B. So understand the requirements and document them cause they will be used through-out the cradle to grave of a product and make you a success whether you are the client or the designer!
David Tedeschi, owner of SAF Productions, LLC