Partnering for Success!
by Pat Craig 


From the Spring 1994 issue of the Complexity Management Chronicles 

Producing high quality products needs, sometimes requires, a partnership between users and developers. Based on our experiences goal congruence, a shared vision, and committed resources, i.e. dedicated staff, form the basis of the partnership.

Other factors enhance partnering. Physical proximity between users and developers fosters better communications and heightened trust. Clearly defined roles and responsibilities increase commitment because each side knows their respective responsibilities.

Users Aid Success

The roll out of firmware on a Colorado based project depended on heavy user involvement. Because the product was complex firmware, users had difficulty providing feedback on the design. The users' determination to use the prototype machine and their feedback, coupled with development's rapid turnaround of new prototypes, ensured success.

Our insurance clients illustrate splendid partnership. At one client doing major development, management relieved select users of their day to day responsibilities to work full time with development. The users, located one floor away from the developers, had a strong voice in the specifications and did acceptance testing. Additionally, a cooperative spirit and high trust between both sides led to increased productivity.

Another insurance client, performing primarily maintenance activities, had the same organizational structure and also produced high quality software.

Management at a mutual fund record keeper believes that users should own the system. Users sign off on all specifications, help determine deliverable dates, and perform acceptance testing. Because users must provide their labor to test, they have become more realistic about their development requests.

Goal Congruence

In another group at the same client, we have seen a clear business need bring about goal congruence. Around November the users and developers realized that a new system would minimize the tax season's impact on the user's clerical staff. By working nights and weekends, developers installed the project on time saving the user hundreds of hours of manual labor. By the installation date, exhausted members of the development team caught the flu and took sick time. Due to the clear business need, management focused their attention on this project. Potential rewards (year end bonuses, promotions, extra time off) or implied punishments (firing if the project failed) reinforced goal congruence.

A Hospitalization and More

We have observed that projects without partnership outnumber projects with it by three to one.

The worst project involved a client in the metro Boston area. Users had significantly more power than the developers and forced deliverable requirements and a deadline onto them. Developer demoralization and turnover occurred, causing productivity loss. Additionally, one development staff member demanded a leave of absence because the stress was too much and another was hospitalized for a stress related disease.

At two other client sites, one based in Boston, one based in Charlestown, users shunned involvement in the development effort. Major problems arose because without a strong user presence, developers did not meet the true business need. Physically distant users compounded the difficulties.

The message is simple. If you want high quality software, ensure you get goal congruence, insist your users actively participate in the development process, and locate users and developers near one another.

©Complexity Management 1994 
Somerville, Massachusetts
Located in Metropolitan Boston.

Complexity Management Chronicles, a newsletter for software quality assurance professionals, is published in print form four times a year. Send your name and snail-mail address to the e-mail address below if you would like to be on the mailing list - at no cost to USA mailing addresses. 


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