Monday, July 27, 2009

Goldplating vs. Great Customer Experience

Steve McConnell's classic mistakes in Software Project Management defines Developer Goldplating as following:
"Developers are fascinated by new technology and are sometimes anxious to try out new features of their language or environment or to create their own implementation of a slick feature they saw in another product--whether or not it's required in their product. The effort required to design, implement, test, document, and support features that are not required lengthens the schedule."
I find the entire concept of developer goldplating and it's classification as a 'classic mistake' extremely amusing. This is because the unfounded fear of goldplating restricts the creativity and realms of a developer and nips the chances of delving out outstanding customer service. Almost all the projects that I have worked on has had the customer coming back with his/her own 'wishlist' at the very last moment and traditional software engineering theory would say that it has to be treated as requirement creep and will have to be carried out as separate change requests in the future. Well that might sound judicious from the point of view of project management, but not from the view of customer experience management. Any project dedicated to providing a great customer experience should try to address even the last minute requests from the client - this is no goldplating and it will be something the customer will rave about. I know that may be nine out of ten people will not agree on this - but for someone who values a happy customer above anything else, requirement creep management can never come in the way of customer satisfaction!!

1 comment:

Michael said...

Hello Jiju, I have been cruising this site and have enjoyed all of your posts.

This is a very tough question and you will obviously get differing opinions. From a developer and user perspective, I agree with you completely, however to an executive trying to leverage their ERP and standardize business processes, this approach to "enhancements" usually becomes a headache.

Executives rightly challenge custom business processes and "gold plating" requirements because there is an obvious cost to these customizations. Execs argue that they don't care how the users WANT to do something, they only want what NEEDS to be done to support the organization's overall business, done as efficiently as possible. People are paid to WORK for a corporation, not "have fun". This is a sad point of view, but it is the case in many companies, and it is especially true in the HCM business area.

As an HR professional who has focused on Talent Management technologies, I personally see the value in a happy employee and a happy customer, but HR executives have consistently failed to show the ROI on customizations, comp programs, and benefits that make employees "happy". This is why employee benefits and HR staff are always the first to go.

That said, even the executives recognize the value of an external customer/vendor which is why you see the bells and whistles on eCommerce sites, which is where all the ERP developers try to copy functionality.

If an ERP developer wants to get fancy with the development toolkit, they are probably best served working in product development for the ERP Vendor.

What is an equally interesting conversation to me is hosted generic solutions like Workday. If companies are truly avoiding gold plating and non-essential customizations, when will ERP make it to the cloud?