Success is in the eye of the beholder

October 16, 2010

When are you done with an implementation? In a perfect waterfall (design/build/test/implement/use) situation, the goals for success are defined and agreed upon by all the stakeholders at the beginning of the process. However, many, if not most new systems do not follow the waterfall method. More often, the definitions of success are not and cannot be defined at the beginning of the project.

The role of the system architect is to take a vague business ideas (reduce double entry, improve communication, streamline deliveries) and make it reality. But who gets to decide when the “reality” that has been delivered answers the business need? The answer, counterintuitively, is everyone.

Everyone has examples of this in life. A student, for example, may have considered the B she received in English acceptable, while her father considers anything less than an A failure. A long, expensive project may be considered a success by those who worked on it, as they know the details of the obstacles faced along the way, but a failure by the Chief Financial Officer because of its dismal return on investment. One user of a new piece of software may consider it to be the best software they’ve ever used, while the next thinks it lacks critical features.

It’s a paradox: they are all correct. They all have their belief about the outcome of their particular system, and that belief is the determination of success–and nothing else.

To succeed with your new commission scheme, your new web app, your new inventory tracking system, your new customer retention policy, do just two things: define success early and publicly, and limit the number of people impacted. With these two measures your chance of success will increase tenfold.

So go on, get to work!


4 Responses to “Success is in the eye of the beholder”

  1. Kyle Broski Says:

    On many jobs, all people can be affected.
    Can you win them over? That is the question.
    Keeping order is key.

  2. Kayle Says:

    I agree. Success is in the hands of the “B” holder. Not her dad. A “B” is a definite success.

  3. Dewey Obst Says:

    The secret of success is never believing you are successful.

  4. Erik Lemmond Says:

    Pretend for a moment you are in school…
    Everyone knows anything above an “F” is passing.
    Needless to say, parents always expect an “A”.
    Is this right?
    Seems wrong to me.

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