Friday, May 13, 2005

I love it when the system works!

I am often spouting on about the virtues of documenting requirements and I am forever thrusting these documents under the noses of the would be users. Sometimes these users don't even want to read documents - they just want their system builts.

Needless to say, if they don't tell you what they want, how can you build it.

I had another very vindicating (in my mind at least) moment yesterday when a couple of users, read some user stories that described how I intended to implement some of the requests I'd received over the past weeks. We have an interesting setup where our customers, are using our systems to manager their customers. Some questions arose over how the user login facility was going to work, and who had the authority and responsibility for resetting user password. (This is a web based system with some sensative data so this was a real issue). The solution I had proposed was fine, but due to a misunderstanding of some of the finer points of the business model , wouldn't have worked effectively in the field. So after a quick read of this user story, a 5 - 10 minute discussion with our "head of risk" and another white board session with our lead developer, the problem is solved - before it even arose.

Given some very pressing deadlines for getting this live and some new customers of ours that will be using this system, I can't imagine what this simple process has just saved us.
Certainly plenty of costly rework once the flaw was discovered, maybe a lost customer, or maybe worse, maybe a security breach or threat which in our industry, would have caused immeasruable damage.

So, document requirements, no matter what. Push them in the face of your users (and other stakeholders for that matter) and make sure everyone is clear on how things are going.

Sometimes it can be tempting to think you've understood all the requirements, and to "disappear" for a while to build a system that in your mind everyone will love. You could then unveil it, to great fanfare, down the track and recieve all the kudos. Not so! At such a great unveiling, even the smallest misunderstanding will knock all the wind from your sails. Things will fall very flat. If it is kudos you are after, and in IT (and particularly consulting it perhaps shouldn't be anyway) you'll get more by consistently delivering results, with "no surprises".