Custom Application Development

Dec 14 2007   11:53AM GMT

Developer – User Communications – Another Visit

SJC SJC Profile: SJC

Once again I find myself writing about the value of having good communication between the application developer and the users expected to use the program for their day-to-day operations.  Two noteworthy instances of this value came to me once again – just yesterday.  Each incident was unique in its own way, but the common thread was clearly communication – either poor, incomplete, misunderstood or a combination of all.  In each case the end result has been delay in getting the task completed.

In the first example the primary communication “issue” was misunderstanding.  Here’s the rest of the story.  At issue — a printing problem with multi-page invoices being printed from a “new” Vista workstation.  The developer made updates to the application which worked in the test environment, uploaded a revised program to the server, and spoke with the tech person in charge who was to make the program available to the new workstation for use only at that workstation.  The program was not yet “functionally all there”, but the critical pieces for the user of the new Vista machine were in place for the user – so it was considered to be an excellent test for the methodology of the change.  The developer was assured that the new program was available to the user and at first check, appeared to be working.  This occurred some two weeks ago.

Lo and behold, on a call yesterday the developer found out that the user had not been using the “new” program, somehow understanding that it wasn’t ready to be used.  The user continued to use the prior program which didn’t work correctly (data integrity was never an issue – only printing), and for the last weeks continued to use the time consuming work-around that had been established early on when the issue first came to light.

By this time, the “functionally all there” version was ready to be put into place to complete the application update.  Decision time — having thought (…since no news is good news?) that the “fix” was performing flawlessly for the last couple of weeks, it seemed appropriate to put the latest and greatest into place and broaden the availability to all users.  It looks like what’s appropriate is to limit the use at this point to the “Vista” workstation and look to expand implementation once the changes have proven effective.  Decision made – delay unfortunate.

Perhaps the lesson here is to religiously follow-up and verify as fact any perceived assumptions like “…no news, is good news”.  Timing is everything, and the timing for this delay (coming into holiday schedules, operational closings and end-of-the-year) – well, let’s just say that it isn’t optimal.

I’ll address the second instance of communication importance in my next post. 

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