All posts by Gail Swanson

What Would You Like?

Discovery phases are often started by asking stakeholders, “What would you like [application X] to do for you?” Once they get over blank slate syndrome, a laundry list of wants, needs, brainstorms and brain-farts pours forth. Someone hands off that list with the title REQUIREMENTS on it. A project scope is born.The document is handed to the business analyst who is told “This is what our users and stakeholders told us they need.” The BA validates the requirements asking “How important is this feature?” “We must have it.” say the stakeholders.  Everyone puts forth their best efforts and designs a smashingly feature rich design. The stakeholders look at it and give their stamp of approval.

Then the development estimates roll in. Reality steps in and suddenly you have to revamp the design to something that costs 40% less. We’ve all been there.

It’s at this point that the team starts asking questions that let you determine what’s in or out.

  • How often will this feature be used? By Whom?
  • What value does it bring to the user? the business?
  • What is the impact if it’s not included?
  • How great is the cost of human error?
  • How much money is currently being lost because this feature is not there?
These questions should be asked before and during design. Talk to users. Find out what they do, what issues they are trying to solve. Find meaningful criteria by which functionality is scoped so that you don’t end up including every idea that the team has. If a feature saves someone 1 hour once a year, is it worth developing? Everything added increases the cost of complexity.
Without meaningful prioritization criteria, scope is a playground for political bravado and never-ending debate.
Save your sanity. Do some user research. Build some metrics.
Of course, if you’re agile, you shouldn’t have this problem.

Three Ring Circus

There’s a lot going on. Almost all of it is energizing and fun. BabyGirl is still a strong, happy baby who is generous with her smiles. And her big brother, LittleMan, keeps her covered in kisses. And Daddy is enjoying his Mr. Mom days while they last.

As I mentioned before, right now I have a few simultaneous design efforts in flight. I wasn’t sure if that would be a blessing or a curse.  Turns out that I enjoy having multiple irons in the design fire. Being forced to spend time away from one design effort and think about something else opens up the creativity. There’s a lot of benefit to it over the usual practice of slogging through it and banging your head on the monitor hoping to have an epiphany.

Of course the drawback is lack of sleep, and sometimes having to cut back on time with the family.  Working Moms Against Guilt is a great resource reminding me that one of my roles in Team Swanson is bringing home the bacon. (I get lots of help with the frying it up in a pan part.) It makes no sense for me to feel guilty about fulfilling the role that we decided I would play. Especially when doing it well means that it demands more of my time. It’s an nontraditional situation to be sure, but that suits my family. And heck, this study shows that it’s a good move for my kids as well.

It’s all a matter of perspective. Well, that and coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.