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All the world’s a stage – act out software requirements

All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely actors.  If you have to figure out what people want and deliver it right the first time, change the way you document requirements with use cases.  A use case is a list of steps, usually defining interactions between an actor (user) and a system, to accomplish a goal.  Rather than focusing on how the system itself should work, use cases focus on the actors in the system, bringing the real system needs to light early on (1).  This is just one of many ways to gather requirements.

Take a website, for example.  Let’s say a customer has a profile where they store their preferences and personal information.  The customer is an actor.  How does the customer create this information?  There is your first use case – Creates Account.  What do you do with all of this information?

Ever rattled off a list of requirements to developers and then been disappointed when they didn’t give you what you wanted?  Did the system not behave the way you thought you expained?  Use cases can be an asset to developers to help reduce vagueness.  Use cases can also be used to create test cases.  By already having documented what each of the actors should be able to do, a tester can create test cases because they  know how the system should and should not behave.

Who creates use cases?  Usually a business analyst (BA), but a project manager can as well if they perform BA tasks. An link to an example of creating use cases is Source 2 below.  Software is also available to help you create your use cases, such as CaseComplete or Gatherspace.  Use cases save time and money, not to mention happy developers and end users.  So go and create your stage - happy acting and requirements gathering!

Sources:

 

(1) http://www.casecomplete.com/UseCaseBenefits.aspx

(2) http://gatherspace.com/static/use_case_example.html


Change the way you eLearn

Ever been frustrated because a product did not come with a manual?  Have you wanted to know how to make software do something but not wanted to call and talk with someone?  Many companies will provide you with a PDF file from their website with the basic necessities on how a product or software works, but sometimes that is not enough.  In 2007, 95% of all gadgets that were returned were not broken, and accoring to Accenture, 68% of all returns were just not meeting customer expectations (1).  Did it not meet their expectations because they did not understand how it worked?

Many companies realize that books or PDF manuals are not enough for people to get excited about their products.  To combat this, some have gotten creative - here’s how:

  • Apple has a free book on their iBooks store that explains how the iPad works (iPad User Guide).  I’ve had my iPad for a little less than a year now, and I thought the book would just touch on the things I already knew.  I was right, but I also found many things I had no clue about.
  • Mashable, the largest independent online news site dedicated to covering digital culture, social media and technology, created The facebook Guide Book to help you master everything on facebook (2).  It has lots of pictures to keep you engaged (and it’s free).  If you’re the jealous type, there’s even a speical how-to to see when someone unfriends you.
  • iRise is a cool software package that allows you to create software prototypes on multiple platforms that mimic the exact look, feel and behavior of the final product before any coding begins (3).  What’s even cooler is their online training (free) that gives you examples of real-world projects and an online community where you can ask questions, share ideas, report problems, or give praise (I like the last one).

Personal, social or professional, resources exist for you to learn more to become better at what you do.  So get out there and discover what type of training is available for the products you use most – and look good when you know the answer.

Sources: 

(1) http://www.engadget.com/2008/06/03/95-percent-of-all-returned-gadgets-still-work-americans-dont-r/
(2) http://mashable.com/guidebook/facebook/
(3) http://www.irise.com

Kill Bugs, Pocket Dough

Ever become frustrated by the way a website works or doesnt?  If you have access to something you shouldnt, isnt it right to tell someone?  Now you could be rewarded for reporting your discoveries, especially if you find it on Facebook.  Facebook began handing out gift cards for reporting problems starting in July of 2011.  The cards range from $500 to $5,000, and over $190,000 has been paid out (1).

What a great way to get feedback and reduce your exposure to bugs that could tarnish your reputation.  Some bugs that were reported may have lead to legal issues, so its probably cheaper to pay up front to avoid paying a bigger price later.  Why the change?  They dont want to hand out money because they can what is the underling issue?  Did they miss requirements or have ineffective test cases?  Are they developing in an agile environment for a complicated project?  Any of these could be the problem, or it could be something else.

Whats a test case?  What does agile mean?  How can they benefit my organization?  Well visit each of these during the month of February, so stay tuned!

Sources:

(1) http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/facebooks-reward-for-bug-hunters-01262012.html

Create the Competition!

What was this last holidays top selling App for the iPad?  If you guessed a game (probably Angry Birds), you’re wrong.  The iPad has gone business thanks to apps like Quickoffice, a productivity tool for viewing and editing Microsoft Office documents.  It allows you to create, view, and edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents.  Why should you care?  According to Forrester Research, companies are expected to buy $10 billion worth of iPads this year and $16 billion in 2013 (1). 

Knowing this, where is Microsoft?  They are on their way and have released OneNote (note taking app) and Lync (corporate communications).  They are seeing the trend and catching up, which many companies have failed at (Borders, Hostess, Kodak, etc.).  And they are playing it smart in releasing their apps.  OneNote is free, but there is a catch: once you have 500 “notes,” you have to upgrade for $4.99 (2).  This is like a free trial run, and if you use it, you will eventually have to pay for it.  But there are other apps that do the same thing for free, like Evernote.

What is the point?  Adapt to your customers wants and needs.  Create something unique and original.  Because if you don’t, there are plenty of people out there who will (and they will take your customers).

Sources:

(1) http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/it-looks-like-youre-trying-to-use-word-on-an-ipad-01192012.html

(2) http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/microsoft-onenote/id410395246?mt=8

Pin THIS

The bulletin board is back, but it’s been redesigned to be uncluttered.  It’s call Pinterest (www.pinterest.com) and it started in December 2009.  On Pinterest, you can pin anything you want to your “board,” including items others have already pinned to theirs.  It lets you share all of the beautiful things you find in your life.  Based on what you post or view, there is a Tastemakers page that suggest relevant post or people to follow (1).  It’s different from other social media sites because it is your own board to store recipes, home improvement information, or anything else relevant to your interests.  Try and find all of the things you “liked” on Facebook - I bet you’ll have to Google how to do that (if you really want to know how, click the link below (2).)

Sound interesting?  To get in, you’ll have to wait in line (not sure how long the line is - I just signed up today) unless someone invites you that is already using it.  The online world is changing to create hype…who knew?  It makes sense - think about all of the social media sites you signed up for, answered a few questions, and haven’t logged in since.  If it takes a few days or weeks to get the invite, you can think if you’ll really use it.  But not everyone is patient - some people are desperate enough to ask others to invite them in chat forums outside of Pinterest (3)!  What are you thoughts on waiting for an invite?  Post a comment to let me know!

Sources:

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pinterest

(2) http://niksargent.com/getdesign/2011/2/4/so-if-you-want-to-view-everything-youve-liked-on-facebook.html

(3) http://community.thenest.com/cs/ks/forums/thread/53139908.aspx

How Kohl’s makes you SMARTER

The more you know, the more you Kohl’s.  Catchy slogan, but the more you know about how something works, the better you become at what you do.  So how do people find out more about Kohl’s?  You can visit their website, their stores, sign up for email alerts, follow them on Facebook and Twitter, and read reviews online (1).  Many different mediums exist to share information about products and sales, as do the same for the industry that you are in.  You have professional associations, websites, daily email digests, and blogs.  All of these resources can help you better understand your industry and your job.

So what does this have to do with change?  If you’re a project manager, you share this title with close to 20 million people worldwide (2).  If you belong to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the premier organization for project managers, you are one of 370,000 people (3), which is only 18% of the project management population.  If you were a member and applying for a job, you already have an “up” over others and even more if you talk about the organization and how it has benefited you.

How do you get started?  Google your industry or job title followed by “blog” or “group” and see what you find.  Plenty of blogs are free and encourage contributions from followers.  Spend an hour or so a week reading – trust me, it’s worth it.

Sources:

(1) http://www.kohls.com

(2) http://www.linkedin.com/answers/business-operations/project-management/OPS_PRJ/12126-204370

(3) PMI Today, January 2012

2012 - The year of YOUR change

When being introduced to a professional in the 1990’s, you may have heard, “Hi, nice to meet you; here’s my business card.”  Today you may meet a technically savvy professional and hear, “Are you on LinkedIn?  Let’s tap to connect.”  Technology has changed the way we do business, but now it’s changing how we connect.

What if you find an interesting article or fact and want to share it with others?  Do you print it off and distribute to others, or is this now taboo?  Why not email to others, but could your email make it to a spam folder or are people constantly changing email addresses?  Your best bet would be to share an article or picture via Facebook.  Crazy, right?  Not really; Facebook made up 52.1% of sharing on the web in 2011 (1).

If I asked how many people liked your business, could you tell me?  Facebook can if you have a business page.  What about the number of complaints or compliments you’ve received that the world can see on Google, Yelp, etc.? 

Let 2012 be the year of YOUR change – I challenge you to find out what people are saying about you or your business and do something about it!  Find ways to connect with others in the digital world – it’s amazing what you’ll learn.

I look forward to my new change – a weekly update on how change can impact you and your organization.

Sources:

(1)  http://adage.com/article/the-media-guy/facebook-makes-52-sharing-web/231528/

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