Creating software is a complex matter and its failure is often a failure of understanding.
While mechanical or electrical machines are made reliable by making each of their parts dependable, software is not governed by this rule. In fact, software does exactly what we tell it to do, and the reason it fails is that we must have provided it with the wrong instructions – the side effect of a lack of proper understanding.
The software’s complexity is propelled by the complexity of the world we live in – the technology race, competition, market demands, etc. Every piece of software, every app you encounter is even more customised and even more smart than the one you’ve used just a short while ago. But how do you deal with this complexity?
The answer may be in introducing the so called ‘Analysis and Design’ stage to your software development process, or, to be precise, just before the development starts. Beyond helping with complexity, this is something that can help you save money during subsequent development.
What is Analysis and Design?
Software Analysis and Design is a service provided by business and IT specialists which allows you to have your idea or user need investigated. Experts conduct a thorough analysis of the problem and propose the best solution.
Not all IT companies offer Analysis and Design, and the services covered by the term may vary. At Future Processing, for example, the Analysis and Design service contains a number of modules such as, for example business model workshops, usability testing, functional specification, mock-ups and service design – just to name a handful.
The benefits of Analysis and Design
Each method of Analysis and Design has its own unique benefits, but on the whole, the service can help you reduce costs whether you are about to start software development, or whether you are already in the process. The following list is some of the benefits that Analysis and Design gives you.
Make it visual from the start
Even if you are following the Agile methodology in your project, thinking things through pays off. Some of the common outputs of Analysis and Design are mock-ups and (semi)interactive prototypes which are way cheaper than development. These can be presented to your business stakeholder or investor. When requesting a budget or applying for a grant, you being able to present how the product will look like, can be the difference between getting an ‘approved’ versus a ‘declined’. Beyond gaining stakeholder support, agreement and money, mock-ups and prototypes can also help you verify your assumptions and vision for the product without the need for costly coding.
Test your business model
A common method used by Analysis and Design experts is conducting different workshops. One type of workshop is a business model workshop which aims to design, or go through a pre-existing business model with representatives of a company. Such workshops allow you and the IT company to define your product’s vision, business objectives and to establish a common understanding of the business goals. Ignoring this stage could lead to differences in understanding of the business needs which brings the risk of the product not providing the expected value and of its subsequent failure.
Check what users think
Analysis and Design employs a number of methods to gather user insight and discover the underlying reasons and motivations of your target group. These methods include: in-depth individual interviews, focus groups, observations, usability testing and quantitative research techniques. All of these aim to get to know your potential end users to ensure that, before designing a piece of software, we understand user needs, their literacy in terms of IT and know their habits and pain points. These activities increase the probability of product success and eliminate the risk of possible oversight or mishap during development.
Understand the market
Before designing a piece of software, a good step is conducting market research which often forms part of an Analysis and Design team’s work. This is where an analyst uses all existing data such as literature, reports, statistics, executive publications, etc. to perform a thorough research with an aim of finding similar existing solutions offered by your competition. This serves as a preparation for further requirements gathering and is useful for initial decisions about your vision for the future shape of the product. It also verifies assumptions on functionalities and success expectancy, as well as provides answers to questions like “if” and “how” your product would be able to satisfy the needs of your users. Finally, the data gathered allows for recommendations of new functionalities for your product in order to distinguish it from competition.
Agile is a great methodology (and a preferred one at Future Processing) but it has some drawbacks too. When working in iterations and adding new features, it can sometimes be a struggle for developers to make the new feature consistent with functionalities implemented earlier. This is where another solution used by Analysis and Design teams comes into play, namely: producing UX guidelines. Such guidelines, typically produced by a UX specialist, provide instructions for technical and graphic development of an application and are a great way of ensuring consistency of the application in terms of code, visuals, architecture and user flow. A Business Analyst, on the other hand aims to ensure consistency of business logic when new business requirements arise.
How can Analysis and Design save money?
What Analysis and Design offers is a variety of methods that collectively aim at solving a business problem with the best possible solution. Regardless of whether you already have an idea, or need to clarify your vision, techniques employed help to ensure your final product has been thought through well. Analysis and Design should therefore be seen as an investment – the more effort you put into a product, the better the outcomes will be. In essence, the service will save you money by saving you problems at a later stage and by helping to minimise the risk of creating a product which does not work well enough, or does not work at all.