Custom Software: Validate the Problem Before Solving It
Last month, I met with a new client to discuss our approach to developing custom software applications. I explained how we start by analyzing a client’s current business process so that we can understand and document it. By gaining a deep insight into how a business currently operates, we are in a better position to clearly define the root cause of the problem and develop a long-lasting custom software solution. My client challenged this approach for his company by stating that as its founder, he knew everything possible about his company’s processes. He did not see the value of a consultant spending time and money to learn things that he already knew. His questioning forced me to clarify the value of our process. In short, the answer to his question was “validation.”
As the saying goes, you often can’t see the forest from the trees. In our experience designing and building hundreds of custom software applications, we find it rare for executives to know exactly HOW many of their company’s critical business processes are actually performed. If this sounds like it does not apply to your situation, consider the following real examples of “did-you-know’ questions that we commonly ask in relation to custom software validation:
- Did you know that your weekly sales report requires four different people and six hours of your staff’s time each week to produce?
- Did you know that the head of your billing department created his own macro script to automate his work, but no one else in billing uses it?
- Did you know that accounts receivable data is automatically imported in your accounting system, but that accounts payable data has to be manipulated in Excel first and then manually imported?
If you can imagine yourself answering “no” to questions such as these, please rest assured – you are not alone! In our experience, we have found it impossible for executives to be cognizant of all workarounds that their employees have created. In fact, some of the best, most creative employees are responsible for creating short-term solutions to close a deal, help a customer, or fix a bug. The problem is that often these short term solutions fail to be formally integrated back into the original process and inadvertently become an accepted way of doing business. By validating the current process, we are usually able to discover workarounds that no one knew was there, allowing us to find the root cause of an inefficient process much faster.
Have anything to add about the importance of software validation in the development of custom software applications, allowing processes to run much faster and more efficient for your business? Please feel free to comment below and share them with me.