Without Trust, No Enterprise Software Development Approach Can Work

trustI’ll bet you’ve seen this happen. It may even have happened to you. The business folks are using software they built to track and report something important. The software is a bit crude, maybe even primitive, but it works. It’s simple. (Often, Microsoft Excel and/or Microsoft Access are the preferred tools.)

Everyone loves the insights they get from the software. Now they want more — a lot more. The business wants to be able to mix, match, sort, filter, add, remove and combine just about every data element there is. And, oh by the way, they want the new software to be just as simple and intuitive as the current software.

The project is complex enough that they ask the IT department for help. IT decides that a new enterprise application is required and it will take several months to develop. The business people gasp — “SEVERAL MONTHS!”.

I’ve seen this scenario unfold many times over the years. It happens for three reasons. First, there’s a lack of trust. Neither side trusts the other to be open, honest and direct. Second, successful businesses become more complex over time. That complexity brings new challenges making it harder to get things done. Third, people get carried away. They wish for everything they can think of rather than focusing on what they really need.

Have you been there? What was the result? If you find yourself in this situation, consider the following advice.

Build Trust

1. Be transparent.

2. Be honest.

3. Commit to a long-term relationship.

Understand the current situation

4. Assess the data that’s being gathered and reported.

5. Be sure you fully understand what’s being analyzed today.

6. Evaluate how the data is processed.

7. Isolate the limitations of the current approach.

Define the desired situation

8. Gather stories that describe what people want to do — everything they want to do.

9. Find example user interface techniques from existing software that people like.

10. Determine if the current software can be changed/enhanced to meet the needs.

Build the new/enhanced system

11. Weed out the stories to get to what really matters.

12. Prioritize the remaining stories.

13. Build the new system in short iterations (2-4 weeks each).

Follow Through

14. Be responsive after each deployment.

15. Fix bugs — even those you don’t agree with.

Keep referring back to items 1, 2 and 3. It will take a lot of effort to build trust. It will take a lot of time to win people over. Like it or not, you have to do it. Without trust, none of the other steps will matter.

photo credit: SalFalko via photopin cc

Updated: May 7, 2013 — 10:10 pm