by Jim Vaughan

More Thoughts on Requirements Definition for Project Managers

May 27, 2010
IT Leadership

Engineers have a tendency to overdesign products.

I have been thinking a lot about my last blog on the right time to engage IT in a project. Then I was told about an interview with Marty Cooper on 60 minutes. For those of you not familiar with that name Morley Safer, correspondent on 60 minutes, referred to Marty as the “Father of the cell phone.” Marty worked in Motorola and certainly played a very large part in the creation of cellular telephony especially in the portable arena. For the sake of the younger readers I want to point out that the original cell phones required a car to house them.

Marty and his wife are now promoting a cell phone called the Jitterbug. The big feature of the Jitterbug is that it makes phone calls; just plain and simple phone calls. This phone is designed for those who really do not want to, or maybe cannot, read the morning paper on their cell phone. This phone is designed for people who already have a camera and don’t need a GPS. I believe that this pone will be quite successful as there is certainly a market for this phone unlike that satellite phone idea that someone once had.

During Marty’s interview he states that “The consumer is King. The consumer ought to make the decisions and … certainly not the engineers.” He goes on to say that “engineers tend to get enchanted by the technology itself.” I have seen this over and over again in my career. There is no doubt that engineers get excited about new technologies and want to create something new and unique. This often results in project bloating where the margin get lower as many of the features are not adding to the price that people are willing to pay. Think about all those tools we use each day including the one I am using to type this blog. How many features are there that seldom get used or that no one would pay extra for if there were an option?

I said it before and I will say it again, sometimes we just need to keep it simple. The product needs to serve the customer. I think there is a market for the Jitterbug but I admit, I will be reading the BBC news and sending a twitter (follow me @Ectropics) from my cell phone as soon as this blog is posted.