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Our latest Champion, John Bethke of Bethke Consulting, LLC, contacted us to tell us about how he uses Balsamiq Mockups in his work. What I like about his story is that it's a reminder that software is frequently only one part of the solution to a client's problem. In his consulting practice John makes a point of analyzing the client's entire process, of which the software interface is only a piece.
It is often too easy to focus only on the software aspect and specifically the user interface. But improvements to the experience can be made at many points along the way. John described to me how a key part of his success has been to take the time to understand his client's world. He even makes sure to use the specific language his clients use. He told me: "It's important to maintain the vocabulary used by the people in the business process roles and keep a glossary of all terms used."
Read on for my interview with John.
I'm a self employed management consultant with 15 years experience working at the strategic level (Product or Process Vision, Enterprise Analysis, Workflow modeling) and tactical levels (User Stories or Use Case, Product Management) for business process improvement and software development initiatives.
Requirements elicitation and stakeholder review is being done virtually more often which means effective techniques and communication mediums used for discussion, review and confirmation are crucial.
Before interviewing a stakeholder, find out about what they do and what gives their work purpose, i.e., understand relevant business rules, key business events, company policies, process documentation, industry regulations. It will inform your interview questions and the stakeholder will appreciate you took the time to understand their processes and problems. In return, they will be more likely to give you information to do your job because they know you are trying to solve their business problems.
John creates business process diagrams to show that he understands how everything is connected.
I use techniques I've developed to efficiently organize the reams of information for understanding and analyzing a business process, identify problems and succinctly describe the process as well as create the artifacts used for the scoping and implementing the software solution. I continue to deliver and my clients continue to engage me to be a resource on their projects.
Each project brings its unique set of problems to solve and stakeholders that have the problems. The initial weeks on a project are about getting the stakeholders to trust me that I will deliver the correct expression of the problems that they need solved and effectively communicate it to the project team members that will scope and build the solution.
I've used Balsamiq since 2012, mostly for elicitation and confirmation of user and system needs. When ever I'm assigned a new project, I take inventory of all the business events, domain objects, business rules and workflow states. If applicable to the engagement, I build wireframes in Balsamiq and use the list of events the UI supports and any related process or workflow state model to create the story of who, what, why and when. The combination of Balsamiq mockups and related user events supported is well received and really advances the conversation to get to meaningful requirements for development.
It is 6 times cheaper to fix a requirements defect before code is written. Balsamiq helps users clearly understand and articulate their problems and see the solution before building it. This leads to more useful requirements and reduced development time.
An example of one of John's workflow state diagrams.
I use Enterprise Architect and Gliffy diagrams for modeling Business Process, Actor models, Business Domain Models and Workflow states. I use Atlassian Confluence for text documentation and collaboration. I use Hipchat and Lync for instant messages and screen sharing.
I use the datagrid quite often for tables. I like using the the field set to group functionally related items. The export to PDF is handy when executive stakeholders want to see a printed version.
Very positive. The simple view of a mockup created in Balsamiq is disarming and helps keeps the conversation about user needs and problems to solve rather than about detailed and final design, which can derail a work session.
When I show the mockups with a list of events the UI supports and related diagrams for context in the business process, it is well received and makes review sessions very productive. Designers can take the mockups I've created and quickly design in the intended software knowing the user needs are understood and requirements are well developed.
A mockup for one of John's projects.
Thank you, John, for sharing your tips and suggestions. You are a Champion!
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