Software Development: IJYI
If you believe Hollywood, it’s a developer spending days, weeks or months in a darkened room typing in complicated syntax – probably with background techno music – until a piece of working software materialises. They wearily murmur “it’s ready” before pressing a key to “put it live” and collapsing over their keyboard.
The reality of software development is that many people with an idea or business problem to solve, haven’t a clue where to start. We see a varying degree of maturity in the requirements customers approach us with – from a few bullet points to fully-fledged functional specifications. Our job is to guide the customer to discover what they need us to build, whilst extracting the essential information to enable us to do it, such as security, auditing, user access etc. We also educate the customer on their role, the required time commitments, expectations, funnelling information and making decisions at critical points.
Typically, a two-day engagement involving as many stakeholders as possible, an inception workshop guides the customer to think about their project or application, the risks, who the stakeholders are, and what level of investment will be required.
We start by discussing the project’s history so far, including how we got to this point. Next is the elevator pitch. This short description allows the collective team to articulate what we’re building, who it’s for, and why it’s different. We ask attendees to independently create their segment, before coming back together to combine pieces and agree on one pitch. We then map out their stakeholder community, project risks, high-level features and system architecture.
These are all critical things to consider; if you want a project to be successful, it’s essential to think about everyone involved. Believe me, it’s incredibly frustrating to spend months developing a flash new pricing tool for the company website only to be told it can’t go live by your own legal department!
Guiding the customer through engagement and procurement
Although our main client contact – known as a subject matter expert – will be proficient in their given line of work, they may not be well versed with all aspects of the organisation, for example procurement and customer relationships. This is where IJYI’s experience across various sectors and sizes of organisations helps. We produce engagement plans to highlight milestones leading up to contract signature and delivery, to help show the customer what they might need to do and who else they need to involve in the process. We work back from a desired “go-live” date, adding in stages such as “board approval” or “investment committee sign-off” and consider when they meet and what planning is involved to get the project on the agenda.
Education on Software Delivery
Guidance doesn’t stop once the project is signed off and we begin delivery work. We need to show the customer their responsibilities. A product owner is essential to make timely decisions, gather information from other subject matter experts, and mark developed pieces of functionality as “done”.
However, overall, we know that a customer who has been guided through software delivery properly is much happier and more engaged, making for a better software product.
Main photo credit: Emma Kindred, Eighty One