Thursday, May 12, 2005

"The magical interdisciplinary view"

Planning a project? Figuring out what to do? Gathering requirements?

How do you approach these things?

Scott Berkun, speaker at Tuesday evening's BayCHI meeting, provides some answers in a chapter of his newly published book, "The Art of Project Management."

In it, Scott describes three perspectives that comprise those answers -- business, technology, and customer, and argues that the latter is the most important, though it is the weakest in most organizations.

Scott recommends use of a Venn diagram of these three views to diffuse perspective bias (i.e., to show, for example, that there are "great technological ideas that do not benefit the business or the customer, as well as great ideas to help customers that are not viable for the business or possible with current technology.") Such a diagram "generates respect across perspectives because everyone is forced to realize that they need to collaborate with people who have knowledge they don't possess in order to be successful."

Scott writes, "if no effort is made to bring divergent points of view together, ... planning meetings become battlefields for attacking and defending opinions based on these perspective lines." "Bringing an interdisciplinary view to a project enables you to make choices that cut across the very boundaries that limit your competitors."

Scott argues for "organizing the planning process first around customer research," then problem statements derived from the customer research (i.e., "descriptions of specific end user or customer issues"), then conversions of those problem statements into feature statements or scenarios (i.e., descriptions of things "a customer will be able to do as a result of the project, or the tasks they will no longer have to do"). This ensures that arguments from any perspective will be made within the context of the most important perspective -- that of the customer.

You can download this chapter of Scott's book for free at