John Howell

Travel Solutions Director

John Howell has been part of the Headforwards team for three years. John is an accomplished Senior Executive with over 18 years of management, strategy, product innovation delivery and operational experience in IT e-commerce with a particular focus on the travel sector. He has worked extensively with boards, supporting delivery of growth in both revenues and turnover as well as supporting with commercial and accounting processes.

Don’t get it wrong

As an outsource software development company Headforwards has worked with a lot of people in building the right business case for their products and projects. The impact of structuring a business case can be significant and can determine the success or failure of projects. A considered approach to both the budgets and the project can deliver significant value for a business, but getting it wrong can leave organisations exposed.

Where did all the value go?

Support from the board matters and boards respond well to long term value. At Headforwards, we develop close working relationships with our clients. We don’t have benched staff that we drop into projects but rather we recruit teams collaboratively with our clients to make sure we get the right expertise and fit for their needs.

Our approach means that our clients end up with a team that knows their business really well and has an in-depth understanding of their products. They have a highly skilled team that can work quickly and responsively to their needs, delivering them significant value.

We have long term clients that harness this value incredibly successfully, when allocating their Headforwards team as an operational cost within their budgets and not considering them as project based cost.

But we’ve also seen instances where this has been done badly. A poorly framed approach has led to a stop start situation where a team’s knowledge, expertise, skills and experience are lost to the business.

CIOs and CTOs that frame projects to their board as short term with specific deliverables need to be very careful as inevitable change in requirement lead to changes in timescales and deliverables. If a specific result is promised for a specific end date and there has been no accounting for change, the board’s expectations aren’t met and funding could be reduced.

The business ends up in a situation where a reduced team is then required to provide maintenance as well as continuing to try to work on future developments which can lead to difficult conversations about delayed delivery timescales for new features. If and when new funding is secured the hiatus means skills have been lost from the team creating the need to re-recruit onto the project. Overall, the process is slower and more expensive.

What’s the solution?

Where we’ve seen businesses do this best is where they build a business case and an indicative budget over the entire lifecycle of the product. The initial build might happen in year one, but rather than reduce the team down at that point and focus on maintenance alone, these businesses retain the team and start building new features, products and releases on a continuous development and deploy model which allows their product to stay relevant, stay competitive and keep delivering the company value. If the entire lifecycle of that product is expected to be five years, they plan to develop and deploy throughout its lifecycle, with a business case and indicative budget attached, harnessing the value they’re building in the team along the way.

Get it right next time

The way Headforwards builds its teams came from a chance conversation at a BBQ between one of our founders, Toby Parkins and a product owner from a global corporation. His struggle to get really good outsource developers came from the fact that they don’t bring you the right people, pulling anyone off the bench to work on projects.

At Headforwards we specifically don’t do that to enable our clients and their businesses to really get value from us as an outsource software company. We will build the right time with you, and the value you’ll get as a result relies on you building the right business case.

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