Needs vs. Wants When Designing Custom Software - 8 Tips for Success

Have you ever gotten so far down the design path that you realize you are about to create software that you want, but is not necessarily what you truly need? When designing custom software, it is important to stay focused on what is NEEDED. Reference these important tips to help you follow the right path to design success:

  1. Establish an individual (or individuals) who can keep you on track in design meetings. This person (or persons) should understand the business and be able to professionally challenge the other parties involved. Additionally, there should be a person designated to be the final decision-maker, should any discussions end in a tie.
  2. Make sure that you have a method to capture what is discussed at design meetings. That might include someone taking notes on their computer or on paper, using a whiteboard, or even using sticky notes. Of course, the method is not as important as the actual information that is captured.
  3. Make sure that everyone understands the current business processes.Process flows can often be helpful in defining these processes. What are the issues?Why do you need to design custom software? This may mean that you need a representative from each department present to make sure that no processes are overlooked.
  4. Once the current business processes have been defined and issues have been identified, revisit each process and assign a priority of 1-5; 1 being the highest priority. This will help you to focus only on what you NEED the custom software to do for you; saving the wants for future phases. Ask yourself if this is a feature necessary to ensure that the business process functions correctly. If there are things that you know you want later down the line (but really don't need), start a list. You can always circle back to those items later.
  5. At the end of the meeting, determine your next steps. Who will take the information that was documented and create detailed design documents?What is the timeline?When will the next meeting occur?
  6. In preparation for the next meeting, the parties involved should read any detailed design documents and determine if any features have been missed. They should also develop a list of questions. Being prepared will allow the next meeting to flow smoothly and take less time.
  7. At the next meeting, step through each business process and solve issues like information gaps or conflicting requirements.
  8. Once all questions have been answered and it has been confirmed that the design is accurate, circle back to those items that were wanted but not necessary. Will the budget accommodate these extra nice-to-have features?If so, you can discuss those features or schedule another meeting if it will require more in-depth discussion and people are pressed for time.

We find that if you try to stick to the “who, what, when, why, and how” questions when designing custom software, you will be able to define your business processes better. In the end, this will allow you to go through the steps outlined above, which will result in a well thought out design document. And, the better the design document is, the easier it is for the developers to build a solid piece of software that meets your needs, on time and on budget.

If you find that your business is unsure of its needs, contact Tribridge and we can help you distinguish your business wants from your business needs and build a solution to address them.

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