Thursday, December 11, 2008

A Beagle with Cream Cheese, Please!

I stood in line waiting for my turn to order at a cafe when the lady in front of me ordered "a beagle with cream cheese". She got a bagel with cream cheese, and went away happy.

If she had asked a software developer to provide a beagle with cream cheese, she would have got it. Our requirements processes are usually set up to give the customer what the customer asks for, not what the customer wants, or needs.

Note that these are three different things: asks for, wants, and needs.

Agile software development represents a shift of focus, from providing what the customer initially asks for, to what the customer wants.

Unfortunately, if we build what the customer needs, the customer probably would not want it. There is also a significant risk that the customer does not need new software.

For example, many agile teams use Kanban boards, and keep track of tasks with Post-It notes. Suppose a customer comes to such a team with a similar task-tracking problem. Would the team just show the customer how the team tracks tasks, or would they build the task tracking software the customer wants?


Anonymous said...


This sounds like the Kano Model to me, isn't it?


Nicos Leon
Senior Business Consultant
Athens, Greece

Kallokain said...

Hi Nicos,

I didn't think about the Kano model when I wrote this, though there are similarities.

I was thinking more about using The Logical Thinking Process to analyze the business needs of the customer.

If one finds something truly revolutionary, how likely is the customer to understand it?

Probably not very, I am afraid.

Some time ago I was involved in a project where I figured out how to improve profits a lot. (Figured out = asked the people who worked there how they would solve their problems, then put the pieces together.)

Unfortunately I could not sell the ideas. Top management is working according to a completely different paradigm. No way to even set up a meeting with the right people. Now the crisis has hit, the organization is in trouble, and I still can't sell the idea I believe will save them.

It was frustrating when I wrote the original post. Now it is even more frustrating.