Archives for Nov,2016

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Custom Software: The Lean Approach

Recently One80 was asked to provide an estimate to a small startup company.  They were looking to build custom software to enhance their existing platform.  The company had a nice set of high-level features that they wished to build, had spent some time interviewing potential users, and even had commitments from several to beta test.

With all the due diligence completed, the client was ready to hire someone to build the new platform.  They had taken the “build it and they will come” approach.

We came in and reviewed their feature set.  We asked a lot of questions about the new custom software, about the problem they were attempting to solve, and the users that they planned to target.  It quickly became clear to us that building the entire platform may not be the best path.  

One80 reviewed the Lean Start-up approach with the client.  We quickly transitioned to the idea of testing the product idea and generating data to help validate the product.  We settled on the Wizard of Oz approach.

For those who are not familiar with the Wizard of Oz approach to custom software development, let me explain:  Just like the iconic movie, what a user sees is not necessarily the whole picture. 

agile software development

The Wizard of Oz approach validates learning by building a functioning user interface. The user interface is nice and it works, but behind the scenes the process of completing the transaction is done manually.  

The business completes the fulfillment of the application manually while tracking data, learning about custom behavior, establishing process, and reviewing potential options.

By completing Lean Start-up testing, the business can validate if the user will actually use the system the way the stated in the interviews and if the new platform will actually solve the users problem.  

Is this cheating? NO! It is Learning.

Why spend cash to build a platform that you are not 100% sure will actually solve the problem?  By building this small piece of custom software the business can quickly learn and pivot if necessary or continue to build the platform. 

Build a partnership with One80 Services, and build the right product. We start by asking the important questions. 

Contact One80 Services Custom Development today and see how we differ from other custom development companies.  

 

When Building Process, Ask Why

Process is not a term belonging uniquely to business. Process fills our lives.

There are things we all do on a regular basis which are wrapped in processes we may not even realize have been established. (I bet you washed the same parts of yourself in the shower this morning in the same order you washed yourself the last time you showered. It’s your process.)

The most critical piece of creating any successful process is knowing why.

agile developmentWhy can be a bit of an irritation, so we like to avoid it. But without knowing why we do something, why we own something, why we buy something, etc – we end up with waste. Wasted time, wasted space, or wasted money.

Process in business often goes unquestioned. Nobody asks why.

If those same processes were implemented at home, someone would ask why. 

Hand-Offs

At home, imagine you were asked to cook dinner.  You were told that you’d be cooking it with two other people, but none of you could be in the kitchen at the same time.  You’d each take turns alone in the kitchen, working on the same meal.

You’d ask why.

How will the other people know that you edited the recipe or began the sauce already? You will have to devise a way to pass that information on before you hand things over. When it’s again your turn to be in the kitchen, you’ll need a way to know what the others have done.

But wait – what if you forget to tell each other that you salted the meat, and it’s over-salted? I guess you just have to be sure that your communication is flawless.

Can you imagine tag-team dinner preparations at home every night? You’d ask why.

But in business, we don’t ask why.

We hand things off to other people, wait to see what they do, they come back and ask questions, we explain or document so they all know what they’re looking at, and then we get it back again to finish.

(Many times, the meat ends up double-salted. We dump it out and start the process over again. We don’t ask why, we just repeat the same process we used when we screwed it up the first time and hope for a better outcome.)

Documentation

documentationIf you were asked to keep notes as you vacuumed the living room, you would ask why.

But if someone in business asks for documentation to go along with whatever is being created for them, nobody asks why.

Sometimes there is a good reason. Maybe the person who bought the vacuum wants to know if the cord is long enough to reach the entire room.  Maybe they are shopping for a new vacuum and they want to know if a more powerful vacuum is needed.

Maybe there is some sort of regulation requiring your customer to own complete documentation of the product you’re building.

(Knowing why you are documenting something can also help you understand how it should be documented.)

You don’t always have to say no. But you should be asking why.

Features

At home, if someone told you that they were going to put a couch in the hallway, you’d ask why.

I mean, couches are cool.  Someone might want to sit in the hallway one day. But they cost a lot of money and take up space, not to mention the work it will take getting it crammed into the hallway.

So why?

But in business, cool features are often accepted without question. Rarely do people stop and ask why.

Process & Change

I regularly use a screwdriver to tighten the hinges on our kitchen cabinets. For a long time, I would go get the screwdriver from my tool bench in my garage, use it in the kitchen, then put the screwdriver back on the garage tool bench where it belonged.

One day I asked why.

It’s common sense and it’s simple, but now that screwdriver belongs in the kitchen.

Also common sense: I did not talk to my husband or children when I made this change. I am the person who uses the screwdriver, I am the person who does this task, so I made the change without wasting their time or mine by sitting down and having a family meeting about it.

In business, a similar change would have required meetings, input, discussion and possibly a bit of documentation.

Why?

Stop doing things without knowing why.

If you can’t answer why something deserves your time, money, or space, then it’s time to examine your process.