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Thursday, 21 June 2012 16:19

 

Development

 

            Thoughtful and thorough development can avoid many of the challenges and obstacles faced in using and implementing a customer relationship management system. With shifts in competition and the increasing reliance by corporations to use a CRM system, development of software has become more important than ever. Technical communicators can play a significant role in developing software that is usable and easy to navigate.

Clarity

            One of the largest issues in developing a usable customer relationship management system comes in the form of clear and concise presentation. Developers are urged to consider the importance of creating software that is easy to understand and without unnecessary confusion, thus allowing a user to navigate the system with ease and confidence.

Strong writing skills can prove extremely beneficial for software development and creation. A 1998 case study showed that software engineering majors who successfully completed a technical writing course created capstone experience projects that were more mindful of end user design than the projects completed by their peers. The case study yielded significant results:

  • Students who completed the technical writing course submitted capstone projects that contained more vivid and explicit detail in writing than their peers who did not complete the course. Researchers note that the students appeared to weigh multiple implications on the potential user, and explained their decisions more thoroughly than their peers.
  • Those participating in the writing course sought out test users more frequently to add a perspective outside their own as developer. Students appeared sensitive of the user’s ability to understand the developed software.
  • The faculty member overseeing the capstone submissions felt that students who did not enroll in the technical writing class were at a significant disadvantage when compared to their peers who did register for the course.

In the case study, researchers argue for the inclusion of technical writers in the development process of software systems. These professionals can offer insight into usability in communication for software projects.Technical writing can help build a unified resource for successful documentation, training and execution of customer relationship management systems.

Test users

            In many circumstances, test users play a significant role in developing software. These users offer software developers an outside perspective of the project, often helping developers gain insight into potential areas of trouble that might have been overlooked or passed over because of familiarity with the system. Test users can also provide feedback from a targeted audience: a software development team creating a customer relationship management software system for higher education can have a user with a similar profile explore the technology, offering opportunities to cater the further development of the system. Test users help developers discover which areas of the software perform well, and which areas require further attention.

Research notes that test users can prove to be most effective in providing developers a structured overview of the software creation. These users can provide a fresh perspective that can reflect on the state of the CRM development without the typically narrow or invested focus of a software developer.

A 2007 study suggests some important steps are needed in creating a quality and effective test environment for software development.  In this case study, researchers observed a Danish software company in the midst of new creating new software with usability in mind. The study found these four observations most appropriate:

  • The developers must make a conscious effort and commitment to the test user. Researchers note that the company had dedicated specific research space and staff focused exclusively on usability.
  • Usability efforts must carry equal concern in the eyes of developers as other technology-related concerns in the creation stage. The study found that test users became discouraged when items flagged as needing attention were marked as lower priority by the software developers.
  • Realistic expectations from both test users and software developers help maintain a productive environment. Researchers note that developers began to limit seeking input from test users after the test users suggested remedies the developers felt were improbable, leading the developers to believe consulting the test users would only prove to be more work.
  • Developers must make themselves available to test users and colleagues alike throughout the creation process of a software system.

The researchers note that some of the best instances of usability adjustments can be made through casual conversation, and that often usability is bypassed by developers because these individuals never think to consult test users. Allowing users to test developing products can have its limits in effectiveness, as the culture of the industry and desired outcomes can affect the effect on CRM creation,  as a 2008 case study suggests that the responsiveness of test users can vary dramatically depending on the industry and field of the user. Research suggests that test users can rate the importance or severity of potential software issues in a significantly different fashion than software developers.[  Similarly so, researchers note the potential for costly delay if developers spend too much time attempting to coerce hesitant test users from participating.

Additionally, involving too many test users can prove cumbersome and delay the development of a CRM system.[  Additional research notes that test users may be able to identify an area that proves challenging in a software system, but might have difficulty explaining the outcome. A related 2007 case study noted that test users were able to describe roughly a third of the usability problems. Further, the language used by test users in many circumstances proves to be quite general and lacking the specific nature needed by developers to enact real change.

 

 
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