How to design technology so it’s fit for purpose?

If we take our past learnings into account, what would be the ‘secret ingredient’ that ensures our projects are delivered timely and within budget?  Well, it all starts with a good foundation …

July 2020 – As the Agile way of working has also entered the financial industry, user stories are often prepared to formulate the scoping of the functional and non-functional requirements. Often, they are written to express the end state, and mostly only from a customer’s point of view. In order to fulfil the customer’s wishes, however, only scoping the user stories is not enough. It is also necessary to ensure all surrounding and underlying processes are taken into account.  Example: a clickable mock-up is often the outcome of a user story, but then, you’ve only captured the customer facing screens, and what about mid- and back-office functionalities, taking care of the underlying transaction?

Unfortunately, once a user story is defined, we often notice that legal, compliance, marketing and customer touchpoints are forgotten. It is in the interest of the business that an experienced business analyst is charged with the tasks to analyse thoroughly both the functional requirements and the combined business procedures and logic that is linked to the specific functionalities of the new software. The business analyst needs to fully understand the entire business processes, something that in the Agile environment is often forgotten, with waste of time and budget as consequence.

Really understanding business

Gathering requirements isn’t an easy task.  In the complex world of financial services, it is at this point that you can clearly see the difference between an analyst with knowledge of the sector and its caveats, and an analyst that doesn’t have that knowledge yet. The methodology they use may be the same, but knowing when to adapt the guidelines to suit the business needs is crucial to success.

Financial services are highly regulated and complying with all legislation can seem daunting. Often, the reviewed mock-ups that have been prepared by the workshop’s outcome look like a disaster once they have been reviewed by the legal and compliance department. The customer journey has almost become impossible after adding all the required legal information, disclaimers and tick-boxes… This is where experience has to kick in. If the business analyst, seasoned by earlier projects, can immediately integrate the needs of legal and compliance, the outcome will be more ‘fit for purpose’ and on time and budget.

There are plenty of examples when only at a later stage in the process this crucial alignment didn’t happen from the start: the app was launched, but there were no customers to use it, because marketing was not aware of the release planning. A new functionality was added in the secure online environment, but the customer support was not informed about this and so, they didn’t know how to assist the customer who had questions how to use it. We could go on and on and on…

Defining and crystallising requirements is the key to success when designing bespoke software. Agile is the best way to deliver fast deliverables in short sprints. Please do not forget, however, that knowing the whole picture beforehand can save you a lot of issues later. If your business analyst has this big picture and is capable to guide the business on how to improve their offering, your new software project will be born under a lucky star.