What the user needs

“… the standard search for the reports, this should be quicker than usual, we can reuse the search functionality we removed earlier…” Nearing completion of the marketing preferences system, this suggestion came up during the discussion for the inevitable reporting requirements.

It occurred to me that the reason for removal of the search functionality – searching for marketing preferences by first/last name etc – would be relevant to the reporting as well. Just as no one would be interested in searching for marketing preferences of users with some first/last name, there should be no need to put together reports for such conditions.

All the marketing department would like to know is data relevant to the campaigns they put out i.e. the total numbers of people who signed up or said no for a particular channel (email/post/sms/phone) would suffice. So a few text boxes or select lists to allow the selections and printing out the number with the conditions would do the trick. The marketing department agreed and the work took a few days instead of weeks.

The Scrum process tends to get people set in a ‘mode’, for want of a better word. Stories generated by a single person (Product Owner or Analyst), maybe looked at by one/two other people (senior dev or architect), are fed into the gristmill for the breakdown, estimation et al. Quite often what are missed, as above, are the actual needs of the users. The things they may not be able to tell you since they don’t know what’s possible.

Its quite possible the reporting system mentioned above would’ve been built like all others and the users would’ve accepted it since they wouldn’t have known better. Weeks would’ve been spent writing code, testing & sorting out the inevitable bugs, likely to be more in a more complex interface.

The best way to avoid such wastage is to be in sync with the users. As many of the team as possible should know them as well as possible. Sit with them when they work, chat with them regularly and have them with you in as many stand ups/meetings as possible.

Unless the team members, or at least some of them, can recall relevant details easily and can lay out the processes, business and the code side, from memory, they wouldn’t be knowledgable enough to bring up the options their users haven’t thought of, nor would they have the confidence to do so.

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