IT managers often face excessive or complicated demands from their business partners. When operations want to specialize, or in the contrary when they decide to cover as wide a spectrum as possible, the list of demands expands and application definitions pile up.
This has spawned the concept of Rapid and Agile development in NPD (New Product Development). You run sprints of 2 weeks with little definition, then sit down, then take it from there, sprint after sprint. The approach is great when you can afford the process and when you have the proper company culture for visual navigation in development. Usually to develop a new product. But this is often not the case.
On the other hand, your team can easily integrate the concepts on which these techniques are based. They help set foundations for negotiation with the business side when creating new features or applications.
1/ Talk them out of it
They came up with an uber long list of top notch features they absolutely need. What they are really saying is they want an usable application.
You want to keep it simple so it can be perfect and practical.
Focus on usability and simplicity. Show examples and find simplicity in benchmarks they might showcase. All successful apps concentrate on usability and simplicity to deliver the first release (or beta), then build on top of a real solid base. Share this view and agree on the principles.
Your tools for negotiation are cost and time. Business is very aware of what cost and time mean. Go fast and simple.
2/ Pareto principle
20% of the effort cover 80% of the needs. 80% of the effort will be needed to cover the remaining 20%. You know about it, everyone knows about it.
Start from there. What are the basics your application absolutely needs to deliver for the business to run? This a joint reflexion you need to have with salespeople in your organisation, for every side of the application ask how specific features contribute to the company’s strategy or key metrics. Sit down, make a list and create three groups:
- Absolute necessity (red)
- Great help (orange)
- Nice to have (green)
Now focus on the red part. Break it down if needed and iterate.
Doing this, jointly with the business people you will quickly identify where the first efforts should be placed. Agree on delivering first what really matters for the organisation to do business and start from there.
3/ What can you take out of your application?
I believe the credit for this phrase is to be given to someone from Twitter. I could not find the source, but the concept is fairly simple: In IT, we like to complicate things based on the assumption that this will offer more flexibility in the future. Is that always the case?
Rather than spending time complicating things that will create more headache in the future, why not simplify things? Is this pile of joint tables with standardized objects really a request from the users or rather what they really want is a simple text field? Sometimes IT cannot answer this question. When we should take the time to understand and simplify, we take more time to create a beautify standardized system of complex elements that will take forever to implement, and that no one will really know how to use.
Take the time to make the dumbest feature… really usable. That’s how they came out with Twitter. 140 character field. Period.
4/ Advocacy within your team
Developers love beautifully complicated systems. Although these might sometimes be needed, they are often not what is expected. Excess complexity can seriously damage your development time and deliverability. The KISS (Keep It Stupid Simple or rather Keep It Smart & Simple) principle has to be adopted by everyone in your team. Fast, clean, simple… perfect.
Delivering is part of the process. Business understand available and ready. When it’s here and it’s simple and usable, they will understand quickly how this is way much useful than the 6-month development feature they though they wanted.
In the end building apps is much more of a joint effort than what’s expected from both parties. IT likes to keep the recipe secret to make everyone believe it’s magic, business wants everything today. Successful teams talk, exchange, understand each other and keep it real.
You liked this? You did not? Tell me about it below.