“What RevUp really is,” says Joe Rospars, an Obama campaign veteran who founded Blue State Digital (a partner and investor in RevUp), “is a software version of Steve himself. He’s put his personality and experience into code.” Steve Spinner Just Fixed The Worst Thing About Being A Politician, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, March 28, 2016.
Have you ever used a phone app or PC software and found it frustrating to use? I have. I’ve often wondered if the authors of the program ever actually used it in real world situations.
I recall trying to get the commander of a military software organization to approve us making some improvements to our software intensive system. He finally admitted that he couldn’t support a change because he’d never used the software that our organization provided to the military units. If his military customers didn’t ask for a specific change, then he wouldn’t approve it even if we could show him that it made the system more usable or stable or secure or easier to maintain. He had no clue, except what the customers told him, about the software system he was assigned to lead and manage.
The key lessons from all this is that often the best software is something that embodies what an individual already does. Too often I’ve seen software, apps and programs, that someone was just sure was a great idea. When I asked one person, who was trying to sell me on developing a software supported method, how well the approach was working for him without software, he told me he didn’t have the time to try it — but he was sure it would work just fine and be great as a computer program.
Every key piece of management and decision making software I ever developed and used was first a manual process that I personally did. Once I knew it worked and I wanted it all the time I would then automate bits and pieces of the process to make my life easier. Finally, I would mash it all together and have a fully automated process that got me the management data I needed, usually in minutes, that took anyone else — assuming they even tried — to get in a week of error prone manual data collection. Other managers would ask me if they could get the same data (but for their departments or projects) and I would aim my software at their data sources and they would get an automated “Bruce” providing them with dramatically enhanced insights into their project’s or department’s performance.
While there’s nothing wrong with doing exploratory software, trying to do something that has not been done and doing it for the first time in software, the best systems I’ve seen are those that capture what people are doing and then does it for them. The ideal way I’ve found to lead such a project was to become intimately familiar with the process and the program behind the product by using the product to solve daily real world problems.
See also Living With Our Data
Is the system your project is implementing based on activities people are doing or is it just speculative based upon someone’s notion of a good idea?