How to know a system is good

April 20, 2010

A system is good when the design and implementation phases of the system are well thought out.

A system is good when the users of the system buy in.

A system is good when the stated goal is clearly articulated to anybody who interfaces with the system.

A system is good when the perception of the system is positive.

A system is good when change is built-in.

A system is good when it advances the goals of the team or organization.

Think about your frustrating experiences interfacing with business systems, for example poorly designed, poorly implemented, or abused phone queuing systems. (Press one for English. Press five to wait on hold indefinitely. Press 384 to listen to our overly-optimistic voice tell you yet again that a customer service representative will be will you shortly). When this system was designed and implemented, was it well thought out? What was the stated goal? What’s the perception of the system? Does the system change to reflect changing business goals?

Now think about the systems you use that are so ubiquitous and pleasing that you don’t even think about switching, say searching with Google. Google, the verb, has become so common in the English language that it takes care of several of the points above: the goal is obvious, the perception is positive, and people buy in. The goal of the company, to “organize the world’s information,” is simplified into one text-entry box under one logo. The design and implementation was excellent when it was launched and it continues to change and grow to stay at the top of the pack.

The systems you live in and work in and are building and are fighting against and wish existed and wish never existed should be examined to see if they are good systems. Examine them with an unbiased eye. Communicate what could be better about them. Determine if spending your political capital, money, or attention on that particular system is wise. Then act.

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