02 June 2011

Needs versus Wants

What do we really need systems to do? Is it enough to be good enough, or must each new product be perfect? Is a partial solution acceptable, or should users hold out until they can get everything they want?

I've already posted about the superiority of 70 over 0 (and argued that the 70% solution isn't really an alternative to a 100% solution... it's an alternative to a 0% solution)

In early March, I came across a great quote from SECAF Donley, in which he talked about the importance of intellectual honesty about what we actually need versus what we want. I think that's pretty important. See, it's not just about accepting a 70% solution. It's about how we define the 100% solution in the first place.

This isn't up to the engineers and technologists, although we have a role. It's ultimately the user's responsibility. But it's not something they can or should do in a vacuum. It's something the whole team should work on together, and decisions should be based on a deep understanding of the operational environment, combined with a deep understanding of the technical options. This juxtaposition of operational and technical insight is all too rare, but it's also within the reach of anyone who owns a phone and can set up a meeting or two.

As with most things, it's not terribly hard. It's also not terribly easy. It just needs a little nudge, a little effort, to move the default behavior in the direction of collaboration and conversation.

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