Why Doesn’t the “Business” Know What They Want?

I’ve been in meetings where people have argued about the shade of blue they want to use on a Learning Portal. This always makes the IT people in the room roll their eyes. IT needs to know how the organization that uses their systems (“the business”) will judge the success of their final product. And so they ask, “What do you want?” It seems simple yet it is anything but.

The business representatives hear the terms “User Requirements” and “User Acceptance Testing” and assume that they are being asked about the look and feel of the software. To them, the user interface is the whole system because that is what they see. They think they are being invited to be software interface designers for the day and later they will be able to judge the end results as if software was a contestant on American Idol. Later on, when the software doesn’t DO what they expect it to, they get frustrated…and so does IT. IT relies on the business to have an understanding of systems design but that is an unrealistic expectation especially if you ask the wrong questions.

Systems only work when they are integrated with the actual work people do on a daily basis to provide value. Instead of asking, “What do you want?” IT should ask, “What do you do?” “What problem are you trying to solve?” This allows IT to engineer a solution. Testing these kinds of requirements would then have real meaning.

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