Before you start coding... stop, take time and compare

Monday, 1 February 2010

Many years ago my high school teacher told me about his days as an analyst; whenever he used to go breakfast cereal shopping it used to drive his wife crazy. He would compare everything from box size to amounts of sugar and price per 100 grams. Whatever he did he had to make a comparison. So think for a second what you are working on at this moment... how does it compare? Have you taken the time to compare your solution against anything else?

In the IT industry we focus too much on benchmarking a standard set of things before making deliverable; how fast is your site, how many bugs are there left to remove and what will be the cost benefit to the business or to our customer. But, one step that is imperative before you make the first jump is to stop and compare. There are many ways that you can go about doing this, the easiest of them you could call the cereal box test. Take a look at what is on the shelf, what are those ready made solutions that are in the same market as the product you are delivering. Look at all of the features and compare to your own feature set: Is there something missing? Is there something extra that isn't of use now but is imperative to have later on?

This is more than a custom tailored vs. boxed solution argument, it's about shopping around, even if the your customer isn't shopping anywhere else themsleves. If you've sold your customer on a particular solution ensure that you are giving them the best. Once the deal has been made you can even ask your client for their own ideas. Was there something in other proposals that you didn't offer. Have they heard of some new technology that they thought would be beneficial to the project. Once you are on the other side of the fence it's much easier to ask these kinds of questions and in the end it will pay in the results.

In every day life we hate to let an opportunity go by, even worse we hate to lose time and money. Don't sell yourself or your clients short, look around, take time and compare. By always looking forward you may miss something good that is sitting just beside you.
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