Design For Digital #5 – No Requirements

Too much focus on requirements creates an artificial boundary between the Business and IT sides of an organization. It’s a bridge, but one that is often difficult to cross. Instead, IT should be providing a flexible, scalable catalog of secure and compliant enterprise services and solutions. It inspires the business to assemble their own, unique solutions from it. Such a catalog is the foundation and inspiration for Digital Transformation initiatives that can quickly be validated, turned into executable plans and deployed. Think Catalog First!

With the next generation of Cloud-based IT we are getting used to powerful, cost-effective applications and services that can be deployed in the business within the shortest amount of time. There is however a consequence. It asks for a different mindset: understanding and appreciating the nature of multi-tenant, catalog-based solutions.

In this context, requirements as we know them might need to be considered harmful.

This is particularly the case if we apply requirements to specify detailed, ‘ideal’ solutions that look remarkably like what we used to have in the past. These requirements will turn out to be impossible to address with solutions from an enterprise app store or catalog. The result: expensive, custom-built applications that are already outdated the moment they are released. Or even worse: standard applications that are over-customized to a degree that they cannot even be recognized for what they originally were.

Imagine you have bought a new house and you want to furnish it. You don’t have too much money left so you decide to go for that famous (yellow and blue logo) furniture retailer. You’ve heard good things about them: excellent design, splendid quality and sharp prices. Music to your ears. You start to envision what your ideal furniture would look like – even invite a furniture requirements specialist to help you write it all down. Equipped with detailed design documents you finally enter the store. There you find that none of the furniture comes close to what you are looking for. Disappointed you leave: you’ll have to build it yourself after all (or even worse: you reluctantly buy some pieces and try to modify them at home to resemble your specifications).

You missed the point entirely.

Building from a catalog – or platform or enterprise app store – means exploring the art of the possible and to go from there. You look in the Cloud catalog for capabilities that can support business value scenarios, rather than fit-gapping solutions to perfectly match detailed requirements. If you can still permit yourself as an organization to build perfect, bespoke applications and services, by all means do. For everyone else, adapting to a catalog-based reality is key: selecting standard components as a starting point – preferably already integrated and interoperable by design – and testing them in practice as soon as possible. Only then should you make an assessment of what is needed to make them sufficiently suitable to support the needs of the organization.

It’s still a bit of a work in progress, but this seems a good opportunity to introduce the first draft of the No Requirements Manifesto:
“We are uncovering better ways of creating value with Cloud-based applications and services, bypassing some of the most established basics of our profession. Through this work we have come to value:

– Capabilities over Requirements and Fit/Gap Analysis

– Value Scenarios over Use Cases

– Working Prototypes over Specifications

– Catalog over Custom-built

Platforms over Integration

In a catalog-based world, requirements may not be that relevant anymore. Think about it.

Part of Capgemini’s TechnoVision 2014 update series. See the overview here.