We Need More Process and Less Pain

I had an interesting discussion with a prospective client last week - they were using another planning tool (Microsoft TFS) and were looking for a tool that would give them a more structured process, but had an easier to use, less painful UI.

It's an interesting question because one of the goals of good industrial design and good user experience (UX) is to deliver the needed functionality in such a way that unnecessary complexity is hidden. So at first glance it was an interesting question. They were looking for a tool that was actually more structured than TFS, but easier to use in terms of usability and easier to configure and manage. Normally when you add more structure and process you add complexity, so you would expect it to be less usable...

Structure vs. 'Bucket of Stuff'

One of the comments that helped us understand the different was the discussion around the product backlog. They felt that in TFS they were dealing with a giant 'bucket of stuff', namely a collection of work items (the same is true for other ALM systems that grew out of bug-trackers such as Jira):

So what they wanted was a way to see their requirements, user stories and features that helped them understand the relationships and dependencies between their requirements and how a change to one impacted the others:

But they also wanted to have a nice easy to view picture of their product backlog, which test cases needed to be executed, and which tasks needed to be completed:

So it made sense then what they were looking for - more structure, yet an easier to understand view.

So Where's The Pain?

The second half of the demo revolved around how easy it was to add/change custom fields, add/change the workflows. When we explained that it just required some mouse clicks, they were happy:

It was much easier than the way some other tools make you configure their systems. No process templates, no XML configuration files, no VBA scripting, just some simple clicks on the administration section.

So the moral of the story is that if you design things well, you can deliver process and functionality at the same time as making it easy to use and easy to customize.

process alm tfs spira

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