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Define Audiences, Specify Outcomes, or Failure Will Stalk You

There are two areas of software development that are often overlooked or under emphasized. They are defining your target audience (or end-user personas) and specifying your promised outcomes (or business goals).

We need to be specific about our target audiences and promised outcomes. It comes down to setting expectations. You can deliver what you documented but the project can still fail simply because the business was expecting something else. Don’t let that happen.

Target Audience

Can you describe the target audience for your software? There are an immense number of possibilities and that’s why you need to narrow it down. Here are a few general categories:

  • Business User
    • Desktop
    • Mobile
  • Technical User
    • Desktop application
    • Server application
  • Knowledge Level
    • Novice
    • Expert
  • Income Level
    • Poor
    • Wealthy
  • Physical Attributes
    • Healthy, no significant medical issues
    • Physically impaired (including advanced age)

There are lots of ways to slice and dice your user base. You might be inclined to say that anyone can use your software. It’s a platform open to everyone. That’s the wrong answer and here are two examples showing why.

Facebook and Twitter can claim to have universal appeal. Some people use them for business, others for pleasure. However, both services have a small percentage of hard-core users. Those are the people that spread the word, draw in others, and ultimately increase the popularity of both services. Without the hard-core users, neither service could flourish. Who are they?

Who are your hard-core users? Can you describe them in detail? If not, you’re likely trying to please everyone. You won’t.

Promised Outcomes

What promises are you making to your end users, paying customers, or corporate clients? Software offers many promises. Here are a few examples:

  • Faster workflow
  • Fewer mistakes
  • Simpler work activities
  • Automation of manual activities
  • Integration with other corporate or cloud services
  • Lower costs
  • Improved reporting

The people using your software deserve to know precisely what to expect. Don’t simply offer them a smorgasbord of new features, enhancements and bug fixes. If you know your target audience, you know their needs. Tell them how the new software will satisfy those needs.

By doing so, you’ll get people to listen. They’ll want to know more. Excitement will build. They’ll be engaged in the effort.

What promises are you making? Can you articulate them in clear business terms?

Don’t let failure stalk your projects. In this case, the development approach doesn’t matter. Scrum, Kanban, Lean, XP and waterfall can suffer the same fate. If you can’t answer the questions above, find someone in the organization who can and enlist that person’s help today.

Updated: May 17, 2012 — 9:58 pm
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