Design, Develop, Create

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Ask (ID)

"Developers must understand the application and the needs of users. It often takes a long-term relationship between users and developers, with a lot of dialog to uncover what users really need."
(Racoon, 1995)
User participation must be part of software development.

IDEO’s ‘Ask’ methods (Table below)can be used to elicit feedback from users engaged ‘in use.’ These methods or strategies focus on user’s active participation interacting with a new technology to achieve their goals.
Table: IDEO ‘Try’ techniques (IDEO, 2003)

What is the relevance of considering information elicitation at such at late stage in high tech systems development as implied by including the ‘Ask’ methods here in a discussion of ‘Maintenance’? The point is twofold, the first is to underscore that the nuanced view of the SDLC presented in these chapters emphasizes the interrelatedness of the various activities, phases or stages of the SDLC. The second reason is to acknowledge that for many users the release and delivery of the product is their first use of the product/system and therefore the first opportunity we have to learn how they got on. As the system is live there must be mechanisms for their experience, particularly the problems they encounter, to be recorded and directed back towards the product development initiative. Consequently, even a high tech system in maintenance mode but still used presents valid and valuable learning for future versions or future systems. In a real sense the SDLC entails doing everything at once, all activities from initial concept, through to design, development and maintenance will be in play at the same time, although to greater or lesser extent depending on the situation.

In particular, for maintenance and support, it may be productive if instead of casting support activities as outwardly assistive, to do as IDEO suggest and ask the people at the centre of your work (users and customers) to help you: ‘Ask them to help.’