From time to time I think all of us fall into the trap. We think to ourselves “this is just a small service request (SR) or slight enhancement.” We sell ourselves as being able to design, build, test, train and implement a new or enhanced business process without vocally speaking with our customers. Yes, they sent an email or posted an SR with their requirements, but did the customer understand the systems available functionality? I’m sure we replied with an email asking a couple of questions about a handful of details they may have missed in their original request.
Do we really need to talk directly to our customers? The answer is yes. We should look at implementing a simple service request in the same manner we implement a complete application or better yet a system. Even though I’m positive we all have examples, a small enhancement would not take as long as delivering a complete system. However the same process steps are relevant and critical for success: the process is just faster than a large scale project.
Much like a quality improvement project with brainstorming, cause and effects matrices (C&E), and failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA), the define phase of any software change is important for understanding the customers requirements. With a good success rate, I have used a Design for Six Sigma (DFSS) approach even when just performing simple system maintenance. By following this approach, I Define the goals and customer requirements, Measure and determine customer specifications, Analyze the functionality options, Design the process, and Verify the design through functional, performance and user acceptance testing. Much like the Six Sigma DMAIC methodology (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control), DFSS takes a focus towards designing new (or redesigning) products and services.
By using a QFD (Quality Function Deployment) tool I can quickly capture customer requirements, system capabilities and time estimates and measure through weighting. The higher the score for each requirement may be important to the customer, but may also be very costly to implement. From there I can move the QFD top hitters to an FMEA.
Getting off on the right foot with a define phase will save time during testing, redesigning, and testing again. In theory, you will be able to deliver the enhancement to the customer much sooner as you will deliver the product right the first time…meeting your customers expectations.