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Bridging the gap: from prototype to development

Every project owner dreams of an approach with users and goals first. An approach where technology, requirements specifications and contracts are tools to support your business, not constrain it.

But too often, the opposite is the case. Users and goals are constrained by technology, specifications, and contracts. This is depressingly true. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Just choose the right prototyping technique and gain benefits in the entire value chain.

We all know the setting. Starting up a new project should be fun and inspiring. The success of the project often depends on this. But sadly, too often the enthusiasm of the project manager and her team comes to an abrupt end, when the ideas and visions has to be formalized in a requirements specification.

Now, we all agree that requirements should be documented and communicated in a concise manner, but does it really need to be a written specifications with lots and lots of paragraphs, trying to describe an interface and a workflow, that is then interpreted in as many ways as the number of people involved?

Of course not.

… a modest investment in interactive prototyping will usually pay for itself several times over, given the savings in medium-term development and long-term support costs. Just as you wouldn’t dream of building a house without deciding whether it was an apartment or a semi-detached house, you really shouldn’t embark upon any software development without pinning down the exact nature of the system, and the best way to do that is to use prototyping techniques…

Reynard Thomson

A Painting Says a Thousand Words. We all know, and of course, we also apply that knowledge when specifying our new, revolutionizing web application. Most projects employ usability specialists and makes use of the fine art of interaction design (if you don’t, you must be living on the moon), producing sets of wireframes and sketches or design mockups that paint a decent painting of our beloved baby-web-app.

I want to bridge those gaps. I want to bridge those gaps using truly agile development.

So what’s all the fuss about?

Well, there are still gaps. There’s a gap between the mockup and the final html/css template. There’s a gap between the wireframes or the clickable presentation slides and the logic dealing with external data sources and presentation of complex information sets. There’s still a gap between project stakeholders taking part in the interaction design process, and the developers in the cubicles out there that’s going to implement that baby. You can probably think of more.

I want to bridge those gaps. I want to bridge those gaps using truly agile development. And I want to start by taking your prototypes to the next level. I give you:

High Fidelity Evolving Prototypes

Imagine a room full of enthusiastic people, throwing ideas at a usability specialist, sketching it all on a whiteboard while discussion is going on, and new ideas pop up. Imagine a lunch break, with people so engaged that they keep coming up with new ingenious ideas during the break, discussing, laughing, having fun. Imagine coming back from the lunch break and WHAM – there’s a working prototype, deployed and all. Everyone can see it, access it and try it out, everyone can have opinions, and the next iteration can begin.

That’s me doing that prototype. It’s me doing 20 iterations over the course of 20 days, delivering a working prototype with prioritized features in a proof-of-concept state. That’s that requirements specification no one wanted to write, right there, embedded in the prototype. That’s when the project owner embarks on a journey, where only the process is known, not the result, letting true agility show it’s worth. And that’s how the project owner will:

  • gain stakeholder support
  • improve estimate accuracy
  • improve the quality of requirements
  • prevent misunderstandings and miscommunications
  • reduce costly changes late in the development phase

That’s when technology, requirements specifications and contracts are tools to support your business, not constrain it.

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