Don’t give your users what they ask for!

Ok, that sounds backwards really doesn’t it. Let me explain. More often than not, when it comes to a systems or process change, a user will specify a solution, not a requirement.

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If you go ahead and simply deliver their requested ‘solution’ then chances are you are not exploring the issue or requirements. As a result, the solution will probably not be the right one. In fact, I almost guarantee it, and will probably hinder their workload, not help.

Example: a user asks you to build them a nice excel template where they can manage and update tasks. You could go ahead and do that, or you could explore what they want to achieve and why. An investigation with the user shows that all the information they want in the spreadsheet is already in the database, but they can’t easily identify and actively review and manage all their tasks.

Their idea is to have a spreadsheet with the information in it to make it easier for them. A great idea maybe. The solution of building a spreadsheet for them to fill in, not a great idea. Not at all. Now they have the system to fill in and the spreadsheet. Double data entry, twice the time required and risk of data inconsistencies and inaccuracies. And before long, the system and spreadsheet will differ so much in its data that other users in the business won’t know which is correct.

So what do you do? You create a report for the user that automatically extracts all the task information that the user needs. When the user updates the system, the report will also be updated. The user will only have to enter the information into the system, not the system and the spreadsheet, and other users in the business will not come across inconsistent data (well, not as much anyway!)

With Process and Systems improvement, it is imperative to fully assess all the user, clients and organisational issues and requirements before implementing anything. Users have fantastic ideas, and generally, they have very good reasons for wanting what they want. Just don’t let them determine the solution!