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When Features Attack!

Attribution Some rights reserved by dullhunk

Attribution Some rights reserved by dullhunk

As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention”, Seilevel’s 10+ year mission to “redefine the way software requirements are created,” was no accident either. While vague, incomplete or incorrect requirements are issues we face every day, the more vexing, expensive, and ever-expanding problem we face is how to battle unnecessary features.

It’s surprisingly common for IT companies to look out at their competition and think to themselves, “Well if they can do it, so can we.” But matching the competition feature-for-feature, or trying to stand out by the inclusion of some new functionality, is an expensive and wasteful endeavor.  If, when creating software, you solve for features instead of the value that feature will deliver to a user, you are aiding the Invasion of the Features!

One of the key studies we bring up when discussing feature overload, is The Standish Group’s 2012 analysis of the costs and risks associated with over 50,000 IT projects, called the CHAOS report. The conclusion of the report found that 69% or IT projects either “Under perform or Fail Outright”. One of the main contributors of this problem was found to be unclear business objectives, i.e. features without a business justification.

A great source for unnecessary features is your trusty smartphone. These devices have developed a huge amount of cultural inertia, so much so that, according to the Pew Research Center, 62% of all American own them. But let’s be clear, just because you own a smartphone doesn’t mean you rely on every feature crammed into the chassis. On display at the recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, were a multitude of new gadgets that offer the ability to scroll with the swipe of a hand, to search just using your voice, or board a plane by flashing their smartphone. A 2012 poll by Harris Interactive found that just 5% of Americans used smartphones to display codes for movie admission or a boarding pass.  From a technical point of view, these features are astounding, but when only half of users understand how to compose and send an email on their phones, it becomes clear that progress has outpaced the user’s need.

To ensure that each feature delivers the maximum amount of value to the user, we use the Business Objectives Model to begin a conversation with the client about the real problems they wish to solve. We begin by understanding the underlying “Business Problems” that are costing the company time or money. Then we begin to explore the “Business Objectives” to solve this problem. Often times this objective leads to another set of problems; so we repeat the exercise until we reach an objective that is measurable, and suggestive of an IT solution. It is at this stage that we begin to define high level features, only so much as these features address concrete business objectives. This way we can prevent any time or money spent on a single unnecessary feature.

For more information on the Business Objectives Model and the 20 other models we use to create value-driven software requirements, visit our website’s modelling section to learn more.

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