Posts Tagged ‘Participatory Design’

Build Your Own Dream Team

Build Your Own Dream Team

Last week I blogged about comparing the movie industry and the software industry. The feedback given in the comments and in real world quite rightly focused on the two actual problems (and areas to learn from): defining what the “production” should be and how to get a team to implement it.

The question last week was “So what can we learn about this concerning the software industry?”

First of all, it’s not that easy (of course not!). But as we have to start somewhere, let’s shoot this out.

  1. Lesson Number One is to implement processes and methods to ensure that the customer need is understood. Communication is the key, especially as it might be (as it is) that the customer does not know what she wants in the first place. And that changes anyway. The concept of “shared unified understanding” is quite important, as well as how to achieve and maintain it.
  2. Lesson┬áNumber Two is that each project (“production”) may be different. So you may need different skills each time. No company can successfully employ all the possible skills on payroll and function effectively. The Dream Team is different each time. Would like to watch a war movie, a love movie and a documentary done with the same actors, same person acting as a war hero and the most lovable lady? Most likely not.
  3. Lesson Number Three is the Crew Commitment. Even if you have the best possible definition of the project, and the best doers available, you can fail if the team does not commit themselves to this production. You need all the help from each team member in order to find and manage all the issues that there will be. It is impossible to micro manage all this (even though it may have been possible in the factories last century). To a certain extent being afraid of failure would help to get better results. Social (group) pressure to get things done properly in order to avoid consequence (whatever they are) could help here?

So what can we (as software industry) learn from the movie industry…?

Beside the above mentioned issues, re-engineer your thinking. The future is not in the big software companies, it’s in the networked ecosystem of best doers of each field. There is certainly work to be done in the way we make sure “what you get is what you wanted” but also on the field of setting up the dream team for each production. And managing network of experts (maybe globally) calls for different kind of managing talents than the traditional models. You need to get the Crew Commitment in place. It’s just the question of time when this will be done by somebody!

But what about marketing? Is it any importance in the software industry (like it is in the movie industry)? Of course. It’s easy if you’ve got a customer who came to you and buys a custom project from you (even in that case it’s the question how they found you). But if you are a startup, what can you learn from movie marketing in this field. Comments, knowledge and best practices are welcome – we’ll discuss this next.

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It’s obvious that we should involve the customer or the user(s) in the process of developing a new service for the Internet. That should be for the whole life-cycle of the development process – from the beginning to the end. I started trying to figure this out some months ago and was surprised how little seems to be done in this arena right now.

That applies for both the B2B and B2C services. One might argue that it is already done, however. Aren’t the consultants of big IT companies spending hundreds (if not thousands) of hours talking to the customer (and billing for it) – making sure that the requirements are understood? Don’t we have the “beta” process for a web 2.0 sites where users can give feedback and influence the future development?

Yes. And no.

First of all, the B2B processes are in many cases extremely ineffective. Or at least expensive. Real life time constraints also affect this process heavily, budgets don’t always strecth to accomodate these ineffective processes and finally it cannot cope with changing requirements during the development phase.

Small companies also either cannot charge the customer for that or don’t have the resources to do it.

In B2C services the “beta” also, by definition, means that the design is so far already that in many cases fundamental changes cannot be done anymore (or they are at least expensive). The User Stories that might tell with users’ own words what a service should be done, is not easy to do as of now.

There are, of course, existing research in this are. For example “Participatory Design”┬áis an example of an approach applicable for the Internet service design as well. We lack however practical processes and implementation tools.

But wouldn’t it be nice that the users actually could be involved in a service design from the very early beginning? Would it mean that we might actually get better services for less cost?

What do you think? Do you know real-life example sof the problems or solutions concerning this problem?

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