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Staff are your People Power

Every business depends on people power—the staff who make things happen, and the customers who they serve.

Some managers tend to see staff as a cost, but I believe they should be seen more as an investment. And we all know that suitable investments pay dividends!

It may seem odd for a geek (who focuses on weird squiggles and lots of brackets) to be concerned about people power, but every system we develop makes life easier for the people who will use it by design. That means we need to know what they want to do, what’s bugging them about their current system and why, what their colleagues in other departments get from them (and don’t) and how their activities impact on other parts of the organisation.

Digging below the surface helps to ensure that whatever we develop addresses not only the obvious, surface requirements but integrates into other systems and makes life easier all round.

A software consultant has to be good at more than programming solutions. They have to be really good at asking questions and experts at finding out what issues the staff should be asking – but aren’t.

It’s not uncommon for people to make assumptions about what can and can’t be achieved with software. Sometimes this only becomes apparent after the system has been commissioned when it’s discovered that some people have additional information kept on a spreadsheet – because ‘I didn’t think it would be able to do that’.

I always encourage the client’s team I’m working with to ask as many ‘stupid’ questions as possible. They may think they’re stupid, but often I find them to be a critical factor in developing a brilliant system that ticks ALL the boxes rather than delivering something ‘average’.

Customer focus

Often technology is designed to help the customer. Online help centres, streamlined logging in, information portals and such-like. However, ask anyone who has been on the receiving end of ‘Press 1 for sales, Press 2 for accounts, Press 3 for support, Press 4 to hear these options again’ – who wants to talk to someone in purchasing – and you’ll know that sometimes the systems seem to be more of a hindrance than a help.

Customers seem to like the things that speed things up on the route to getting what they want, but steam comes out of their ears when they can’t get what they want – and can’t talk to a real human being.

When you’re designing new systems and installing software – it’s wise to ask yourself (and probably your team) ‘How will this benefit the customer?’ If the answer is, ‘It won’t’, even indirectly, then question whether it’s an essential purpose.

If you’re not serving the customer, you’d better be serving someone who is.

Jan Carlzon

That applies to software too!

For assistance in unleashing your people power please get in touch