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The importance of choosing the right path

The title for this article could have been “the importance of undertaking a proper requirements capture when developing a new system”, but we have covered this numerous time before.

We have just successfully launched a new system for a client whose journey to this event has highlighted to us and to them the importance of properly capturing  the business requirements. It also highlighted the importance on providing a solution that fits the needs and not their wants. The client has allowed us to use them as a practical case study to highlight the advice in this article.

In the beginning

A business has the seeds of an idea and creates a business plan to move it forward.  They decide that they want a website / on-line database system to either market the idea or act as the tool by which the idea will come to fruition. They hunt around for a developer to turn their idea into reality. They have a number of options moving forward:

  1. Select a developer who will take the idea on its merit and build what they want with the outcome that it potentially doesn’t work.
  2. Select a developer who will take the clients idea, challenges it and breaks it down into what they want against what they will need to successfully bring the idea to fruition.

The right path

The paths people take in business are varied but we think when developing a solution for a client the second of the above options is the right path. This is the path that  Treasure Trails chose to take when developing their family genealogy website Heirloom Hunting.

This is a good example of where Ayrmer Software’s wide experience can bring new ideas to fruition. This system involved all our experience in business, business analysis and client liaison in order to buid a database driven e-commerce platform solutions.
Lloyd Brina, Heirloom Hunting.

They had an idea for a website and the basis of a business proposition and decided to follow the path where they undertook a series of workshops in which their business propositions were thoroughly challenged. The outcome was a system that worked for them that was quite different to the one they proposed at the beginning of their journey.

We recommend using workshops to capture a business’ requirements, because often businesses have an idea of what they want but do not know what they actually need. The two may indeed be the same thing but often it is not. We are driven by emotion and “wants” are a big factor in purchasing decisions. This is why so much effort is made by companies to create brands. To get people emotive about purchases in order to buy without thinking. While this is generally fine in the world of retail, in business emotional decisions  can be dangerous.  A bit of rational thought is the safest way forward.

As a footnote, it is also worth noting that you make decisions based on your assumptions and will not always know what is and isn’t possible. Using a specialist ensures that you can make decisions not only knowing what is achievable, but also be confident that you use the most up-to-date technologies, taking into account areas that you might not even be aware of.

Recommendations

Workshops with their deliverable outcome in the form of a specification, enable the developer and client to be sure about what they are going to get as all the requirements within the agreed scope of the workshop will be discussed. Only when everyone is clear about the  details in the specification does it get signed off.

This should create an unambiguous and clear description of the project ensuring feature creep will not be the route to an increased costs. Additional functionality can be added, but will be managed so that any impact on costs and / or timescales can be managed and signed off.

The result is a better managed development process with no surprises for either the client or the developer, which results in the completion of the project on time and budget!

Different developers operate in different ways, but this methodology is borne out of many years experience and difficult issues arising for both client and developer.

It is about putting the other person first, by looking after the client properly and making sure you always aim at what is best for them then even though they may not think it at first the client will thank you for the results.

Resources

Why you need an software architect; the building project analogy

The importance of good business analysis and a written specification

Challenging your clients is good for them

Date: 23/02/2012

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