In Part 1, Todd Davis, Vice President of IT, UniMed Direct, outlined the basic steps involved in building your own (BYO) software. In Part 2, Davis discusses how understanding your customer and your competition can ensure that BYO is the right decision in the Building Your Own Software series: Understanding your customers and their workflow. Understanding Your Customer’s Needs
As you consider the software you are about to build, learn as much as possible about who will be using it. Why do they need it? What will it help them accomplish that they couldn’t do without it?
Understanding your customer’s marketplace is also important. Too often, software developers do not fully grasp their prospective customers’ workflows, even when developing software for internal customers. Many people struggle with change, and if you roll out software that doesn’t meet their needs, they are unlikely to use it. And why should they if it doesn’t improve their processes?
When creating software that will have multiple and diverse customers, you will most likely deal with conflicting priorities. Compare the needs and wants of all of them and determine the strengths, weaknesses and priorities. Then you can plan the software to maximize the strengths and priority features.
Understanding Your Competition
Who is your competition? Answering this question requires research and critical thinking. Why are you building software? Can you do it better than other developers? These are conversations you need to have with your team before beginning. You’ll need to decide – and be honest with yourself and your team – whether or not you can build software that is actually better than what is already on the market.
If your software will be first to market, then you must prepare for the competition that will follow. What enhancements will you need in order to stay ahead?
Workflow, Workflow, Workflow
Once you are familiar with your customer’s needs and your competition, it’s time to get acquainted with your customer’s workflow. What tasks are you trying to automate? In what order do people do the tasks? Understanding workflow is critical to designing software that is easy to use and solves your customer’s problems.
In utilization review, this means understanding how claims and reviews must be processed. Keep in mind that not everyone works in the same way. The key is to understand the commonalities to create your core system, and then add options to handle the variations. Once you understand the workflow, the next step is to document everything. I’ll discuss documentation in Part 4.
The first step in developing software is about discovery and answering questions. Building software is complex, and many, if not all, companies have experienced failed software development projects. Think carefully about why you are building the software and how to ensure it will succeed in meeting your customer’s needs. If you’re still ready to BYO, I’ll see you in Part 3!