A Loving Intervention for Software

Rick Wartzman

In his latest column for Bloomberg Businessweek online, Drucker Institute Executive Director Rick Wartzman writes about a company called iRise, which makes computer-based tools to “test-drive” software applications in early development, before businesses have sunk too much time, money or ego into projects.

In so doing, Wartzman writes, “software prototyping firms such as iRise are helping to solve a huge problem: the inherent inability of IT people and others in the organization to communicate clearly with one another.”

[EXPAND More]This is an issue that Peter Drucker wrote quite a bit about. “The producers of the data cannot possibly know what data the users need,” he asserted in Management Challenges for the 21st Century. “Only individual knowledge workers, and especially individual executives, can convert data into information. And only individual knowledge workers, and especially individual executives, can decide how to organize their information so that it becomes their key to effective action.”

Traditionally, Wartzman explains, “companies have handled this divide through a set of software requirements meant to translate a particular business need into computer code. These specifications are usually captured over many months in a War and Peace-sized document, following endless rounds of mind-numbing meetings between IT staff and those who will actually use whatever is being produced—an online payment system for customers, say, or a new inventory-management regime.”

But with visualization and simulation technology, Wartzman notes, “IT personnel can quickly provide an accurate, highly interactive rendering of how a software application is going to look, feel, and flow. . . . Adjustments can be made immediately, before coding even begins. Back-end surprises are eliminated, saving time and dough.”

Wartzman concludes that Drucker would have liked this approach for a number of reasons. Among them: “Co-designing with the end users takes all the mystery and misunderstanding out of the central question: What does the customer value?”[/EXPAND]