Ready, Set, Sprint! Involve End Users Early and Avoid Falling Short of Your Goals

INNOVATION

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Being user con­scious is good busi­ness! The prob­lem is many de­vel­op­ers and man­agers are fail­ing to in­volve end users at an early stage, when changes are more eas­ily and cheaply made. They of­ten think they have enough ex­pe­ri­ence to know what end users want, and maybe they do have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing than most. But, you know who is even bet­ter at know­ing what end users want? End users!

Unless you have ac­counted for every­thing, which is un­likely, end users will ex­pose prob­lems and you will need to make changes. You can’t pre-solve every pos­si­ble prob­lem. What you can do is en­gage with end users to bet­ter find these is­sues sooner rather than later.

According to Susan Weinschenk, as much as 50% of de­vel­op­ment time is spent re­de­vel­op­ing over, through, and un­der emerg­ing prob­lems. No won­der as many as 15% of IT pro­jects are aban­doned! Redeveloping is of­ten as costly as de­vel­op­ing. This is partly be­cause adding a sin­gle at­tribute in­volves more than sim­ply adding said at­tribute. Databases, UI, and other at­trib­utes must also be up­dated with each ad­di­tion. Not only does this con­sume de­vel­op­ment time, but also the soft­ware team’s en­thu­si­asm for the build.

The new phi­los­o­phy un­der­pin­ning soft­ware de­vel­op­ment is ag­ile & lean. Agile de­vel­op­ers are re­spon­sive. They en­gage with end users early and re­peat­edly. Lean de­vel­op­ers place a pre­mium on ef­fi­ciency. They em­brace Albert Einstein’s maxim: “everything should be made as sim­ple as pos­si­ble, but not sim­pler”. Being ag­ile and lean is crit­i­cal in user-cen­tered de­sign. Agile and lean are in­no­v­a­tive ideas all de­vel­op­ers can and should take on board.

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Getting The Most Out of Scope Discovery

According to Susan Weinschenk, as much as 50% of de­vel­op­ment time is spent re­de­vel­op­ing over, through, and un­der emerg­ing prob­lems. No won­der as many as 15% of IT pro­jects are aban­doned! Redeveloping is of­ten as costly as de­vel­op­ing. This is partly be­cause adding a sin­gle at­tribute in­volves more than sim­ply adding said at­tribute. Databases, UI, and other at­trib­utes must also be up­dated with each ad­di­tion. Not only does this con­sume de­vel­op­ment time, but also the soft­ware team’s en­thu­si­asm for the build. Competition is in­creas­ing. Not only eco­nom­i­cally, but also cul­tur­ally. We live in an age of in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion: user-cen­tered de­sign no longer an op­tion, but a ne­ces­sity! Be ag­ile, be lean, and most of all en­gage with your end users early and reg­u­larly.

Don’t be afraid to go old fash­ioned and use ques­tion­naires, sur­veys, and fo­cus groups. They work! Plan and pro­to­type based on these. Remember, it’s eas­ier to change plans than code or graph­ics. So make sure those plans are ac­cu­rate. Accurate scope dis­cov­ery is as im­por­tant as code and UI.

If you want to read more on this topic, check out How to Accurately Estimate the Cost of Software, where I write in more de­tail on this.

WorkingMouse: Agile and Lean Innovation Development in Practice

At WorkingMouse we have em­braced the prin­ci­ples of ag­ile and lean de­vel­op­ment. We em­ploy an in­no­v­a­tive process made up of a num­ber of sprints. Each sprint can be thought of as a leg on a re­lay. A race in it’s own right, but part of some­thing big­ger. We cre­ate a min­i­mum vi­able prod­uct (MVP) in the first sprint. This MVP is then ex­panded or re­shaped by sub­se­quent sprints. This sys­tem makes us bet­ter able to re­spond to what end users ac­tu­ally want and need.

There are times when end user en­gage­ment is im­pos­si­ble. But are plenty of times when it’s pos­si­ble. Take ad­van­tage of those times, be­cause by en­gag­ing with users early and reg­u­larly, you can avoid falling short of your fin­ish line.

There are a num­ber of ways to max­imise the ac­cu­racy of your pro­jec­t’s scope dis­cov­ery phase. One way is to start sim­ple. Build a base that can be ex­panded or re­shaped whichever way the data de­mands. This is some­thing we do at WorkingMouse.

If you want to read more on MVPs, check out Why The Minimum Viable Product is an Integral Part of The Innovation Process****.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Isaac Joekong

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