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Technology Projects – Talk to Users 03/27/2009

Posted by TBoehm30 in Project Management.
Tags: , , , , , ,

In the days when I did projects creating forms for a CRM system, I talked to many different people. Sometimes, though, I talked to the wrong people.

Usually the request for some new customization came from the steering committee. The steering committee got their requests from management. Management got their requests from their team leads who in turn got their ideas from the team.

Most requests were straightforward and well thought out. They required a new checkbox or dropdown on an existing form; maybe they also needed some new fields and reports to handle the new data. The biggest projects were longer and required teams of people. They had project managers, testers, designers, etc. The projects in the middle, however, were the most interesting.

The middle sized projects were usually very focused, but not technically spelled out. It was up to me to determine if we needed a new form, or could be added on to an existing form. I had to design the layout, the format, and the process.

One particular project stands out.
I had to design a parts order and tracking form. It needed to be simple with only 15 – 20 controls, most of them pre-defined as dropdowns, or checkboxes. I talked to many of the users to format the screen so that it followed their process. The first person using the form would use the top row of controls. The next person using the form would use the next row of controls, and so on. I then took the complete form to the manager of the group, who completely rearranged the format.

The manager needed the form organized so that he could look for specific issues easily. That meant controls from each row be put at the top getting his attention quickly. I worked hard to make him happy by creating the form for his use. At the end he was extremely satisfied with the result. As an outside consultant, I thought I had done a great job by keeping the managers happy.

Then the form went into production. Ooops. The users hated it. It was no longer intuitive, and they had to concentrate very hard to use the new form. Mistakes were easy to make on the form, and that confused the process. To make matters worse, the manager never actually used the form; he looked at reports to find the problems.

I learned my lesson: Talk to the Users of technology. When working on a project, you need to understand who the end users will be. Who will be interacting with the product you are working on? It is those people you need to get the most input from. If management decides to make changes, then I need to talk them out of it. I need to convince them that there is a better way. Next time, if management needs a separate project just for them, then that’s the way to go.

Thanks to SellGoSell for the idea for this blog. He writes a great story in his sideways lesson.

Remember that it’s the final user of the product that will ultimately determine the success of your project. They are the ones who understand the part about Technology making it happen.



1. Rhodes - 03/30/2009

To design a CRM form you should think in a end user’s perspective.
I suggest this because you should learn about customers’ needs and behaviors in order to develop stronger relationships with them.

To know more about CRM you can visit http://erp.com

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