functionality is lame, quality rules!

Mark van Holsteijn

Most of the IT projects focus on delivering functionality. But it's remarkable that the most applications do not provide any new functionality to the users at all. The functionality that is implemented, was already available.

Let us take a simple example from real life: The telephone. The  telephone provides us with the function of talking to another person. The function already existed before the invention of the telephone: you just had to walk to the person you wanted to talk to and start the conversation. The telephone made it easier because you no longer had to travel before you could start the conversation. The telephone saved you a lot of time and allowed you to increase the frequency of conversations with others.

For a long time you could only talk to people that were at home. The telephone was attached to a copper wire. The mobile phone lifted the restriction of the fixed location of the telephone. Again the function already existed, but the mobile phone made it easier to use. Now, you can talk even when you are not at home, for instance while traveling in your car.

You might argue that sending text messages to other, was new functionality. However this is not true: sending text messages was already available to people before the invention of the phone, let alone the invention of the mobile telephone. You could send a letter to the recipient and the recipient would reply in due time. The Text functionality reduced the round trip time of message and now you can even start a "real time" conversation.  The combination of the two functions made the mobile phone very attractive to users, and accelerated the decline of the fixed telephone.

The function of conversation between two people has existed since the beginning of time, the things we improved are convenience, time, frequency and portability, which are all qualities belonging to the same function. In life, we are constantly improving the qualities of function.  Different systems and solutions  compete with each other to provide the best quality and attract users.

So any IT project you should focus on how to improve the life of the users. And as you can now see that improvement is about quality and  not about functionality, the question is: what is your project's focal point?

Comments (2)

  1. Michel - Reply

    July 31, 2013 at 11:09 am

    There is a great technique for understand why you are doing what for whom:

    Impact mapping: http://www.impactmapping.org/

  2. Geilson Fonte - Reply

    July 31, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    That's why Tom Gilb says all requirements are non-functional. It's an interesting change of perspective.

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