The thought of updating a legacy system can be intimidating, especially when you have a user base to maintain. I, however, see this as an advantage. Besides select members of your organization, who else knows your product and its functionality better than those who use it? You can save yourself time, money and a lot of headaches by actually including your users in in your legacy system update. Read on for four ways to make it happen.
Segment your users
In order to include your users in the process, first you need to figure out exactly which groups of users you’re going to utilize. The most important thing to remember is that you’ll want a representative slice across your user base. You’ll want to include some big and small users, and also make sure you get a range of users that utilize all of aspects of product functionality. You may need to do some data analysis and define your “casual users” and “power users” so you can work with some from each group.
Get them the product sooner rather than later
The quicker you can get the product in front of your users, the sooner you can get feedback. Even if it’s just a small issue like screen resolution size or element tab orders that slow down data entry, the quicker you can identify these bugs the quicker you can pivot. You don’t want to find yourself months into the process before you identify something that’ll cause your project to have to start from scratch, meaning both time and money lost. I specifically promote Agile sprints with my team for this reason.
Determine your marketing research methods
Whether it’s focus groups, surveys or hands-on demonstrations, decide the ways and means you’ll be soliciting feedback from your users. Taking a phased approach to product deployment can be a helpful way to do this. Even if you’re still at the stage where you can’t get the product in their hands just yet, you can communicate the types of changes that are coming and ask for feedback or questions. Once you’re farther along, hands-on demonstrations can be a great way to identify any last-minute glitches.
Decide how you’ll handle user feedback
People in your organization will have varying reasons for which changes they’d like to see. Once you’ve decided which changes you’re going to make and why they’re important, your users might have other opinions. What are you going to do if you experience negative feedback? Are you going to stand firm or change course? You need to plan in advance how you’re going to handle these oppositions, or you’ll be putting your project at risk for derailment.
Speed to market requirements keep accelerating. Most organizations no longer have the luxury of taking 6-12 months to design and develop a solution before their users have a chance to see it. By involving your users early and often, and treating them as partners in the development process, you’re more likely to end up with a better product and happy, loyal customers.
About the Author:
Gary Gealy is a Senior Consultant with 30+ years of experience in programming, supervision and technical support. He feels strongly that software development is as much a craft as it is a science and as such mentoring and training are critical to growing an organization. He has developed software across a number of markets including the Insurance Adjusting, Manufacturing, Food Services and GIS industries.
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