Getting to know the customer in software

We produce lots of great software in this country. However, I see too much that is technically excellent but has not considered how the customer sees themselves, or the problem. The most common mistake is to substitute the views and experience of the development team for that of your target user. In many cases today, the development team are nothing like the intended users.

How did we get here? Regardless of methodology, understanding the users is the first stage of software design. UK companies need to ask themselves: Do we have the right people involved in understanding the user? What skills or background do they have to understand or explain human behaviour?

The UK is known for its strengths in the arts, humanities, social and political sciences but we see far too few of these people working in a cross-disciplinary way with software teams.  These areas have the key to understanding the user in different ways which can all bring key insights and help to simplify the ways that software requirements are developed.

Software that badly understands the user will seem poor – no matter how good the core is underneath. Poor software can be made cheaply or expensively – and to be honest, the UK will never be able to compete on price with the poorest software from around the world. UK technology companies need to compete on quality rather than cost.

We would hope to see UK companies building high quality software that understands the user and stands out as Chippendale does versus IKEA. UK software companies can benefit by having better user requirements and making the software design process easier and to customers to getting better software.

Bring Your Own Device is bringing the end the power of the Enterprise manager who will buy software they never use on a day to day basis, and is being replaced with users choosing the software which they like the best.

The Technology Strategy Board is running a funding programme on Multi-disciplinary software design. Registration closes soon, so please register your interest by the 3rd July 2013 here.

There is also a Knowledge Transfer Partnership running in this area.

And an online group here.

S. Bakhshi is the Lead Technologist for ICT at the Technology Strategy Board, the Government’s innovation agency. The Technology Strategy Board’s goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation.

Image from BigStock

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