Another week in Mexico City, and nothing chaotic or remotely strange (by Mexico standards) happened. Life is heading back to its usual modus operandi. Offices have thermal imaging cameras at their entrances to catch suspected flu carriers, but traffic on the streets is back to its chaotic self and everyone is happy that this signifies a return to normality.
As for my current project with the large multinational insurance company, things are getting interesting. The team has entered an iterative 'construction and validation' series of development 'sprints'. The Case360 product is doing exactly what it should: providing a flexible platform for rapid development of process and document management solutions. Its nice to know that the messaging I put around it from a product management and marketing perspective while in the company was really true! I have to hope that Global 360 manage to keep some level of focus on the product in the future, since it really is a great technology.
Some interesting facets of using a product of this type, which allows production solutions to be configured without coding (beyond a little script here and there), are:
(a) how fast you can put skeleton solutions together that you refine over a series of iterations
(b) what a waste of time documenting and formally designing a solution can be
(c) customers start to think this is so easy they can do it themselves
The power of a software product that allows configuration of meaningful solutions, based on its templates and best-practices, also carries some risks. The major one is (c). A deep understanding of what the product offers, and how all the available pieces fit together in a usable and maintainable way is required by the consultants doing the work. Otherwise the solution becomes a series of disconnected and confusing components for the end user to navigate (how many of you remember Lotus Notes applications?). And some complex requirements, though possible to meet, require some serious thought, prototyping, rework, and occasionally coding, that can be hard for a customer to comprehend.
Its strange to me that customers are often willing to accept the opaque nature of custom software development if the whole solution is based on this. But if a solution is largely configuration and clever reuse of templates, anything complex is looked at with contempt, even though that the final solution is far more manageable than most custom software. There's no pleasing some people!
A post from the Improving It blog