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
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.
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
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
Located in Metropolitan Boston.
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