The title of this post indicates one of the most critical areas, I believe, that needs to be addressed when considering custom applications software. Most non-IT persons seem to have difficulty separating what is truly an application requirement and what is a desire for an application. Naturally, a real requirement versus a desire has significant impact on the business value of an application, and of course its costs.
Of course, there are the users who are doing their job day-to-day and don’t really see anything as a requirement for an application. They get their job done! What is the advantage to them of doing it in a different manner? Some potential users of a new application quickly see an advantage to having a new system, or changes made to an existing system. These users seem to instinctively understand the value of what is proposed, or the value of changing the system.
Change is difficult for most application users. When faced with a new application it always seems to be the worst thing that could have happened to them. They like the “old” way that has worked — tried and true. (..yes, the same one they’ve complained about for years!). But generally speaking, give them a period of time, maybe as little as a week, perhaps two to three weeks, and suddenly the new system is the best thing that ever happened to them. Many have excellent ideas whcih they are glad to give.
Within a small business, at least businesses of the size I often deal with, what really exists is a collection of users each with their own unique idea of what a system should do — which is based upon their specific responsibilities. In most instances my experience would say that they have no idea what it takes to computerize what they’re looking for. That’s truly where the talent and experience of the analyst comes in. The analyst must ask many questions, and they must be carefully phrased in order to have a meaningful answer returned.
It’s up to the analyst to sort out the true application requirements and what is a desire — it’s the responsibility of the analyst to talk with the business owners or other knowledgeable management to establish what the business value of the requirements and desires is. Then, of course, it is also up to the analyst to establish the cost. This work is not trivial!