Developers take time to create good working software. They read the requirements, write code, end up with a perfectly functional application, and then someone in the organization realizes that application won’t help the business at all.
As CIO and cofounder of Amadeus Consulting, John Basso has seen this time and again over the past 21 years. In that time, his firm has learned how to align software development and business objectives, and now has released ID-GEM, a free planning tool aimed at small- and mid-sized organizations that might not have the expertise to find the business value in a software project.
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“Look at people building a home,” Basso said. “The architect wants to build something to make people happy, but people often ask for illogical things. So you walk in the house and say, ‘Who would build a hallway this narrow?’ It’s illogical.”
In the same way, he said, a technology company is being paid to do what its customers want, and often is torn between building what they want versus building what it thinks the customer needs. “Often, though, they don’t know how to ask that question,” said Basso.
He cited a 2015 Standish Group report that said that only 29% of software projects are successful, and “clear business objectives” were identified as a key factor in project success.
“People jump right into requirements,” said Basso, going from what they think their needs are to defining software features without taking time to consider if the software will meet the needs. “But they have to build the right thing. You have to look at the technology part, but you also have to look at the business part.”
Basso said there are five steps to ID-GEM. The first is to identify value and a primary business objective. “You want to create users or capture market share,” he said as a simplistic example. “So you can’t put a 17-page login system in place, as your adoption rate will be horrible.”
Next, the process calls for asking questions related to the primary objective, such as “How will we make it easy for users to sign up?” or “What is your user acquisition strategy?”
Step three is to create an initial goal. In this example, the goal might be to gain more users. An improved goal might be to say, “I want 1 million users by Q4, achieved through social sharing and referrals.”
After that, Basso said it’s important to evaluate the outcome and see how the solution performed against the established goal.
And finally, you need to measure the success of the solution, with the business side and technical team collaborating. “Big Data is only valuable if you use it to drive business value,” Basso said. The data might find that 18- to 20-year-old males drive more social user acquisition between 9 p.m. and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and the company needs to determine how it can leverage that information and continue progress toward the goal.
Amadeus has made the software free of charge on its website, delivering a custom PDF of the ID-GEM framework that can serve as a repeatable process for each software project.