“Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you.”
I’m a great advocate of building a sand-pit environment for the customer to use as early as possible in a project’s life-cycle, even during pre-sales if possible. Using the sand-pit will develop customer trust in the product and excitement for what will be forthcoming. It will also help the customer identify possible issues (eg data modelling, naming conventions, etc) that can be resolved before the production roll-out occurs.
But most importantly, it allows a greater degree of customer interaction during the bulk of the project. An OSS is only as good as the data that is fed into it and a customer that doesn’t understand the product yet won’t have an appreciation for the vast amounts of data that needs to be collected and why it is needed.
The data migration stage underpins the whole project and the sources of data and best known by the customer’s technical and operational staff. Getting them engaged early will smooth the data migration stage and what better way than to give them new toys to play with in their sandpit?
The sandpit will be extremely helpful for understanding revised process mappings too.