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February 9, 2010

Concept Development

Many a times we get requests where a client / customer / prospect knows what he wants in terms of functionality and feature set but cannot visualize to execute the concept.

Concept development is a challenging area where the experience and creativity of a developer (read concept developer) is most effective. At Siddhatech Software Services we have been helping a large number of our clients in concept development. Sometimes it is not just enough to start a project using feature set , design implementations using AGILE (SCRUM , XP) – more is needed to understand the clients’ perspectives.

Software programming and development cannot be anything less than an art – yes, technical knowledge is required to implement the project. It is just not possible to prepare a blue print of what an application or a concept is supposed to do – 10 months before launching the product. There concept development can play an effective role in planning and development. It is not very hard for developers or the entire development team to misunderstand the requirements and proceed in a totally different direction than what is expected.

These challenges can be overcome with the Concept development. It is equivalent to nurturing a seedling to a full grown tree providing not just shade but other useful products that can lead to further development. Nurturing a project at the inception, speaking , communicating with the customer / prospect  / client with the help of concept development tools plays a large role in the success of an application.

So when is concept development really required- let’s look at a classic case –

The client comes to you with a requirement – “Well ! I want a small website that can sell some of mother’s home baked cookies – it can have an online payment system , a procedure to select articles in the shopping cart , a facility to add products from the backend. Can you possibly develop this for me – I know it is not difficult with the existing CMS systems or more evolved systems like MAGENTO , PRESTASHOP – see I have done my homework and I know this should not take more than 2 weeks to be developed and designed !”

Ah ! There goes the first sign of half knowledge on behalf of the client and you as a developer in accepting what the client has to say – “to keep him happy “ . What happens next – you design , develop and finish the project. Well the project is finished by the developer – but the client is not happy. He wanted an FAQ section , more information on how the cookies are baked , what procedures are followed to ensure hygiene – he wanted to also let his sister and his family members add more products apart from cookies and sell them.

Phew ! We thought this was a 2 week project and it turned out to be a 2 months project – ofcourse the client is not going to pay us more than what was already decided. Well there is no option now to go ahead and complete the project.

On the other hand – before starting the development it would have been very helpful to develop the concept – iterate it with the client – help him understand what he is looking for and then proceed to design and development. Once the sign off is done on the concepts and storyboards it is very easy for the developers to work – and there is little confusion on both the sides.

We look at concept development as a bridge that needs to be built before a lot of work actually begins. It helps to reduce the gap in analysis and understanding. Many times as developers we tend to build roads for running porsches when we know that a simple car is all that our client has and will not change to a Porsche soon.

At Siddhatech we have a special team that works on Concept development when we know there are going to be “grey areas” in the project .

It takes a little effort – who says things are easy to come without some hard work. So next time before diving directly into the system – take a step back and focus on developing the concept !