Evans, Mark, New Zealand Management
Application developers have a tricky job. Ensuring sufficient input from the users of the application is critical. But sometimes users don't know what to ask for. They are used to things being done a certain way because that's how they've always been done, and they can't always see alternatives.
Building a new application is a great opportunity to examine existing business processes and review their efficiency. But therein lies a problem. There's often a knowledge gap and communication breakdown between users and application designers. They simply don't talk the same language and don't have the same understandings of the business.
Users are likely to know the nuts-and-bolts of existing business processes more thoroughly than application developers. But they don't know what is technically possible. So what they ask for is often not what they should (or could) be asking for.
Application developers, on the other hand, know what's technically possible. But they are often led by a desire to please users and give them what they ask for rather than taking a step back, challenging users to review existing business processes and helping them look for ways to improve them. All too often they're also too removed from the day-to-day operations to be able to judge good processes from bad ones.
As a result, applications get built that embed inefficient business processes, and the opportunity to create efficiencies through a new system is lost.
So what can be done? The secret is to ensure that the project team responsible for designing and building a new application is a proper team--with representatives from all the affected areas of the business not just from IT.
It'll do no harm for members of your sales or marketing teams to gain some exposure to technology by working with the tech guys. And it'll do your tech team a power of good to work more closely with other staff and get a better sense of their processes and priorities. …