Being a project client

In the ideal scenario, student group projects are a win-win proposition: the students gain some valuable experience and the client benefits from a successful delivery. Since there are projects that do not follow the ideal course, however, it is important to summarise what should be expected.

The students will be doing two other modules in parallel with the project, and it therefore represents a third of their working time. Each project represents approximately 100 person-days of effort, and it is important to set the scope of the project accordingly. All project proposals are reviewed by academic staff to check that the scope of the project is not too ambitious for the amount of time available. The details of the project will be discussed with you in advance of releasing them to students if there is any doubt about the scope.

Projects should not be critical to your business. The inexperience of many students when it comes to working in a professional context represents a heightened risk to the project. The best type of project is therefore one which is a low priority, possibly part of a speculative development which would otherwise struggle to attract internal resources and approval.

What are you committing to?

You are not expected to provide supervision of the team's daily work unless you particularly want to do so. Supervision is usually handled internally by experienced academic staff. You will need to meet with the team at least three times over the course of the project in order to clarify the requirements at the outset, to check on progress approximately half-way through, and to take delivery of the results at the end. If the project is popular and several teams bid to take it on, then there may be a further requirement to meet some or all of the teams in advance in order to select the preferred group. Any meetings outwith this schedule are at your discretion.

The students' effort is entirely free of charge to the client and no payment is required to the University. The only material input required from you is sufficient staff time to cover the minimal series of meetings, and any specialist hardware or software needed to complete the project. All such resources are returned to you on completion of the project (where possible) unless otherwise agreed. Likewise, you retain the intellectual property rights to the work completed by the team, although the usual arrangement grants the University and the students the right to use the results for teaching or personal purposes.

What information is required for a project brief?

A six-part template is provided for new projects as shown below. All project briefs follow the same structure so that the students can compare them easily and select those that correspond to their personal strengths.

Title One-line description of the project
Academic year Selected from drop-down menu
Overview A short summary of the project including the goals, type of activity and the technology to be used, if known. If the students have to investigate alternative technologies, this should also be stated here.
Deliverables A short description of the expected outcomes from the project. This is typically a piece of software, but can also be a report, design document, or other type of product.
Resources available A list of resources that the client can provide to the project team. This could include, for example, any items of hardware or software specific to the project, or other types of resource such as working space in an office. It is always useful in this section to include an indication of the kind of support that the client is offering. This might include access to client training documentation or systems, or support from a named person.
Skills required This is an indication of what skills the team as a whole should have in order to undertake the project. The list of available skills is quite extensive, but if there is something that is not shown, it can be added.