Your System – Not Guilty As Charged

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Bespoke – or Custom – Software

Posted by Joel Schipper on December 13, 2010


A long time ago, I was a software business analyst and programmer in a very large company.  I went to meetings with business users, and asked them what their software should do.  I went to plants, offices, and distribution centers, and talked to business users who were using very rudimentary “accounting” systems .  I wrote down what they said.

Then we had many long meetings with lots of people (and coffee and doughnuts) to better understand what we thought we heard, and to gain agreement on what was needed.  I wrote up what I thought they wanted.  We met again and again.  I laid out pictures of screens and reports to represent what I thought they were going to get.

As time went by, business requirements also changed.  Finally, we had “agreement.”  Then a budget was laid out for program development, and years later, programs were delivered.  Maybe they hit the mark, maybe not – after six years I had moved on.

The chance that these programs no longer were what was truly needed was reasonably high due to the time lag involved between request and delivery.  Perhaps these systems were then “guilty as charged.”

The issue of custom or bespoke code is big one.  We can discuss this at more length in the future.

For now, a few guiding principles are:

  • Design becomes paramount
    • Is the system design truly representative of what the users want?
    • How do you know?
  • User input and acceptance of design is key
    • They must be able to visualize the end system
    • Prototypes are critical – the old phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is so true in this case
    • Rapid development tools are essential in managing the time frame
  • Constant communication and feedback is the secret
    • And if documentation and testing teams are involved at each stage, the chance of errors in the final product will be dramatically reduced – this is another topic for another day; I talked about this at a conference in the late 1980’s…

Good luck on your designs….

 

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