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Get It Right!

Understanding what the customer wants a product to do, to look like, to feel like, even to smell like, is important.  Design people can make the difference between a sleek looking car exterior or a lackluster one.  The same is true of a web site.  While I tried to make my website myself, initially, I later used the help of a professional in this area.  But getting it right goes deeper than the exterior look and feel of the product.  Try navigating any website and you will begin to appreciate the thought and effort that goes into making it easy to use.  Or consider the apps on your smartphone.  Some of them are good–and some of them you will never use again because they are so poorly designed.  And, what about all those web sites and computer interfaces you have to deal with at your company?  And, what about the ignition switch on a car?  Obviously, someone did not get that right.  They knew what the ignition switch had to do and they validated it to the specifications they were given.  But, it was not verified to be what the customer needed in real life.

Within the last two weeks, I have been working on specifications and requirements traceability of some products for HVAC applications in hotels and businesses and for equipment on aircraft.  While at Daimler Trucks, we often used a requirements management system now offered by IBM called DOORS.  It’s been around for about a decade now and is used by many large companies.  It captures the requirements of a product or piece of software at many levels and helps track that there is a test to assure that it is implemented correctly and completely.  I also became aware of a newer application from JAMA Software that provides some newer ideas and makes drag and drop and social interactions a part of the process.  Finally, I worked with someone in a marketing organization to complete a text based document that the customer could sign off on as part of their commitment to order the custom solution.

It also ties in with project management.  An important part of the process is understanding the role of many people in the process of defining the product and its test plan.   Whether you call it PARIS (Participant, Accountable, Reviewer, Input, SignOff), CAIRO (Consult, Advise, Involved, Responsible, nOt involved), RASCI (Responsible, Approve, Support, Contribute, Informed) or something else, it is important to know who the decision makers are and who all has a stake in the process. [The same is true for a sales person understanding the roles of people in an organization].

So, if you want to Get It Right at the end, start at the beginning and put effort into the specification.  And don’t forget the important step of understanding what the customer wants.  Remember, Just ASK — Always Seek Knowledge™