A little up-front effort

sisyphusMany companies spend vast amounts of time and money creating complex software systems which inevitably don’t quite deliver. They often fail to cater to the real needs of the very people who will use the software – and as a result those users will end up at best disappointed, almost certainly frustrated and in some extreme cases resentful toward the software.

All of this could have been avoided, though, with just some small adjustments to the early stages of the project. Users should be involved – even if the purpose of that involvement is simply for validation that your understanding of their needs is correct. More probably, they should have some input into the process so that their own ‘front line’ experience is used to ensure that the system being designed or changed is better than the current process.

Of course, this is an additional effort than simply employing an analyst to design something that meets the basic requirements. It’s a commitment to actually paying attention to users – via focus groups, brainstorming sessions, observation and feedback sessions – and using the knowledge gained from this effort to shape the design of the system.

Requirements Prototyping provides a very powerful structure to help involve users and a skilled prototyping analyst will be able to help organise the strands of user feedback into something effective.

Companies that have used requirements prototyping for their software systems often find significant savings in the lifetime of that software. This is usually due to getting the requirements right in such a way that benefits the users, and therefore avoiding the need to release the ‘version two’ and so on (at great expense).

Savings down the line will more than cover the additional cost of engaging a prototyping analyst. Many times over!


About John Clark

My name is John Clark and I previously ran a software house called Reynard Thomson, from which this blog originally grew. In the meantime, we launched a video-based user testing service (Kupima) which didn't really take off, and I have since moved into a new field specialising on software-based research & development consultancy. I'm active on LinkedIn, and would love to connect to anyone who has an interest in software prototyping or R&D: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jtclarkuk/
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