"This Project Will Be the First of a Series..."

How many times have you heard something like "This project is the first of a possible series of <insert number greater than 2>"? Well, I wouldn't be rich, but it would certainly save me a few cinema tickets if I had €1 for each time I heard it!
(€1 or $1, or £1, or ¥100, or something like that... you know).

How Things Go

The projects arrived in two ways: an interesting project that isn't really your (company's) stronger ability, or a semi-interesting project much like some other project that you've tackled before.
However, there is a catch. There is always a catch.
It might be a low budget at the moment. It might be that there are really no users to contact, or some stakeholders are still (or forever) undefined. Or you might not be seeing the catch right away, because they will tell you a nice story.

They paint you a bright picture: they tell you how their Company is succeding on their business 1.0, how they see this Web 2.0 things can improve customer relationships, attract new customers, ease internal processes, or something like that. But the important part of their story is that this is just the first of a series of projects. This one is planting the seed of a new shiny Company 2.0.

If your company has a solid market position, or are very specialized, or have a strong character leadership when it comes to evaluating project proposals, a few times you won't come to an agreement with the client. Lucky you. However, you always think that this one might really be a good opportunity, if you did it right. So, you might actually make some concessions, thinking of the other N projects that you can get from this client.

If the Project Actually Starts

Most times, the project will find its way to kick off.
Most times the project starts, it will finish, as in getting to a point where you and your customer agree that the project has come to an end.
Most times the project finishes, it will actually be successful, the client being happy with what you built for them.

However, something changes in the client's mind.
Sometimes it's that they discovered how troublesome it is to actually decide over petty things like what they really want to achieve with their new website while they have to manage the Company. Other times there may actually be a marketing representative that steers the projects' goals, but the net result doesn't suit the executives' vision, and of course it's your fault.

Or it might be that there are some limitations that keep itching the users, who then complain to their bosses, it percolates up, etc. When they finally call you a few weeks or months later to know if the users don't know how to use it correctly or it's actually a limitation, you promptly reply "But we agreed that there would be such limitations, because of the limited budget, am I right?". You are. But the 1.0 Company has never really had time or patience to fully read the requirements document for the new 2.0 project that was sprouting. Or they read it, but the precision degree it carried was surprisingly not enough to prevent the client from having new ideas.

And the first in a series of projects easily becomes a one-shot.

Bottom Line

Most of the times the project doesn't start, it's probably a good thing. I've had a few of these, in one case further digging and contacts with the company that got the project confirmed that it didn't pay off. However, it's not good to lose many projects, you might be missing a good client and an even better project.

If you really feel like you should place your bet on that project, it's better to mostly ignore the part when the client says "this project will be one of N". Evaluating your participation based on future projects might lead to too many concessions on this project. That situation ultimatly puts your team in a position where too much work for too little gain is in the order of the day, because, you know, clients change their minds.

In the end, if you can really pull it off and create a very shiny and functional product, projects will keep coming, regardless of wether you lowered the money bar or not on that "first" project. Wether it is from this client or from others. So please, keep your standards.

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