The Essential Dialog

A continuous thread of careful collaboration throughout a project

To build a valuable software product, most people recognize that business, design, and programming skills are needed in some proportion on the development team. However, when one looks at the combination of skills as a relay race where a business idea is handed to a designer who then hands it to a programmer, they are looking at the wrong team analogy. Success depends on constant communication, working together towards the goal with a lot of finer skills that are used adeptly at just the right time– more like basketball, volleyball, or football than a relay race.

RoleModel Software firmly believes success of any software project does not come from either concept designers or product developers or business people, but from careful collaborative effort between all three to create a successful user experience necessary for a product to have real value. There are many different approaches to get to this successful user experience. And though every successful collaborative team effort has a starting point and an ending point, there are many ways to successfully collaborate in between. Poor collaboration almost always ends in failure.

RoleModel’s delivery team has deep and varied skills in both “concept development” (think of stuff that is perceived) and “product development” (think of technology that has to be in place for the perception to be a real experience). We bring these skills to our clients who bring a variety of “business domain” skills. Throughout the process, there is an essential dialogue between the parties in order to have their individual contributions converge to a successful user experience.

Over the years, we have found that the shape of that essential dialogue does not always look the same, and much of that depends on the type of client with whom we work. Early in the project when there are less artifacts and working software from which to leverage our discussions, it’s especially critical that we’ve gotten to know our client’s expectations and formulated the right approach for them. Therefore, we have learned to tailor our approach to best suit the client and the context of our engagements.

In some cases, we’ve kick-started a poorly-defined project by spending a few days in the beginning on-site interviewing users and producing a thorough set of scenarios describing the desired product. In other cases, the client came to us with a set of specifications that we were able to turn into a set of screens and stories that guided the project forward. In any case, knowing which approach could get the given project moving forward was crucial to the project’s ultimate success.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sparking collaboration and the essential dialog, so quickly discovering an approach that gets forward momentum is the first step in a successful project. In the end, though, a project can only be successful if communication is strong all the way through, not just in the beginning. That’s why we maintain a tight feedback loop with our clients. As the project moves along, new challenges, opportunities, and constraints may come up. When things change, we are careful to adapt our approach as needed to ensure the whole team continues to collaborate effectively.

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