Understanding "As-Is" When Developing a Custom Software Application
Published: April 11, 2013
It may seem that when developing a custom software application, the only information needed is the client's end goal. In reality, many clients approach Tribridge for a custom software solution not sure of what their end goal should be; or if they do believe they have their end goal identified, they may not be able to explain it in enough detail to start development. Rather than aiming for a target that we can’t see, we take the time to gather details which lead us to the target; allowing our team to build the most cost-effective custom software application possible. To help clients clearly and accurately define their end goal, we typically first interview and investigate to define the current processes and systems used to perform business (the "As-Is”); if any exists. With this information we are able to document existing processes and systems so that the client can gain a clearer understanding of their needs. Combining this client enlightenment with Tribridge's consultation skills, a more efficient and effective process and/or system can begin taking form and it often involves the development of LESS software than originally envisioned.
Defining and documenting a client's "As-Is" scenario is the ideal starting point when beginning the development of a custom software application. There is no better way to determine the best approach for moving forward than to identify the process that led the business to its current situation; which triggered the decision-makers to reach out for assistance. After all existing processes and systems have been clearly defined and documented, it is much easier to analyze for problems, inefficiencies, and missing elements. This documentation often gives the client a view into their business that they have possibly never seen before, crossing departmental boundaries and allowing them to more easily locate problems that could be corrected without software intervention. If errors in the current process can be corrected before development begins, this will save the client time and money.
The Value of “As-Is” in Custom Software Application Development
Some clients do not understand the value in better understanding and documenting the "As-Is", and feel that it is a waste of valuable time; but our experience shows that it saves our client much more time in the long run. Having both parties (the client and Tribridge) fully understand how the business currently functions lays out a solid foundation for cooperatively formulating a custom software solution for the future. Throughout this analysis process, consultants are able to gain a working understanding of the business' lexicon and build a relationship with stakeholders. For the client, it is critical that key players affected by the system/processes being analyzed are included from the beginning of development. These people work hands-on within the business and can provide the valuable information needed to guide change in the right direction. Granting a development team access to key business users creates a situation where issues and concerns can be identified and resolved prior to development, instead of wasting time and manpower to correct an issue or concern identified late in the project due to missing information early on.
”As-Is” vs. “To-Be” Custom Software Application Processes
Using the "As-Is" documentation as a driver, it is a much less daunting task to create "To-Be" processes, development, and implementation plans. With help from stakeholders, the “As-Is” process can be improved and updated to address problems, inefficiencies, and missing elements. Once all parties have agreed and all issues have been dealt with, the outcome is the "To-Be" process; which outlines what the end goal will look like. Typically, the end goal ends up encompassing important changes to business processes that extend beyond exactly how the new custom software will be built, and clearly describes where the software fits into the larger business process. Once consultants have a clear understanding of the goal, development and implementation plans can be easily drafted and carried out.
As you can see, understanding a client's "As-Is" before embarking on a custom software application solution is vital to a project's success; through both the client and the consulting service's eyes. Regardless of how much project time this may consume, it is invaluable and time well-spent. By the end of a project, our clients typically realize the great deal of value added from the design process; many times allowing the business to save money prior to any software being written. As you can see, spending the time to document the "As-Is" gives our clients peace in knowing that Tribridge is committed to a thorough job, not necessarily a quick one.