Saturday, 16 May 2015

The Power of Prototyping: The Client View

"After visiting Naked Element with my document management idea. Within a few days they were able to take that idea, and transform it into a working prototype. It was quite remarkable! Thank you Naked Element" 

- Jonathan Knight of Norfolk IT Support

When you come to see Naked Element for the first time at the start of a new project, you’ll tell us about your requirements and we’ll explain how we can implement them for you. However, we’re a new supplier. You’re new to Naked Element and we’re new to you. We haven’t worked together on a project before, so there hasn’t been the chance for trust to build up between us. And although we know we can deliver, because we have experience from many projects we’ve completed in the past, we know you would feel more comfortable if we had something to show you.

Ideally we would like to be able to show you the work we’ve done before and in a lot of cases we can. However, there are at least two reasons why we may not be able to. A lot of the work we do is internal to clients and therefore cannot be shown to a third party, even under NDA. Another reason might be that we may not have built some aspects of your requirements before so there is nothing to show.

What we can do in a lot of cases is build a basic end-to-end prototype which demonstrates a few key features and/or how a number of key technologies might work together.

For example a client recently came to speak to us and said he was looking for a system which would allow scanned documents to be stored in the cloud, classified and searched. We worked on a system in the past that included similar features, but we were unable demonstrate it as it was an internal system belonging to someone else.

To demonstrate that we could fulfil the clients requirements, we spent a few hours building a simple prototype web application which stored scanned documents in a well known cloud storage service, indexed them in an enterprise level search system and could search and retrieve them. As this was a prototype, the functionality was basic and as we knew we’d be throwing it away, we worked without our customary automated tests, continuous integration, static analysis or security.

Once we had something reasonably presentable we invited the client in to see the results. He was immediately pleased and excited about our prototype and we had demonstrated that we could deliver his requirements. Of course we explained clearly, as we would to you, that this wasn’t production ready software and further development would require investment.

Naked Element does not give away services for free, but there are occasions where a quick, basic, non-production prototype can add value to the requirements gathering process.

Prototypes are a powerful way for us to demonstrate to you what we can do, when we don’t have an appropriate example to show you. When you come to see us, ask us if a prototype is appropriate for your project with Naked Element.

This is a piece I originally wrote for the Naked Element blog. The original can be read here. You can also read the consultancy view here.

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