Recently I found Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares on Netflix. Each episode of this show starts with a restaurant that is on the brink of collapse and follows Gordon through his efforts to help the owners turn their restaurant around. Usually I don’t enjoy reality shows, but along with the drama and swearing there are a lot of great takeaways (no pun intended) for us as IT people.
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It was a long trip from “I want product ABC” to what we really ended up choosing and implementing. No process is perfect, no meeting goes as planned. After the product selection process is complete it’s time to review what went well, what fared poorly, and what we can try to improve the process. There are fifteen other tasks waiting, but taking some time to identify these factors is the first step to evolving our process towards an ultimate goal of less wasted motion in both the short and long terms.
Having identified the root needs the product will fulfill, engaging people while selecting criteria, and generating a scorecard to evaluate each contender against, we’re ready to get started, right?
Once we have the purpose of the product selection defined, it’s time to move on to defining the characteristics we need or want from our product. Up until this point in the process we have talked to people one-on-one or in small groups. Now that we have identified the core need or needs the product must fulfill, we are ready to expand that into the list of requirements and features by incorporating input from the wider group of affected people. We can use brainstorming to engage people as well as help them voice their expectations and evaluate the relative priorities of those expectations.
Product selection is something we will all run into in our careers, regardless of where we fall in the technical spectrum. Whether we are helping select a tool for end users, new hardware for our servers, or a framework to use in our process, product selection can have far reaching affects and the potential to consume a great deal of time and effort.
The following post is the first of four outlining a four step selection process that attempts to create structure without becoming too heavy to use. There are meetings and details, but only in support of a few key methods (chosen due to their success in my own anecdotal experiences).