Organization culture and custom software development – really??

February 27th, 2014 Posted by Business No Comment yet

Ok you might ask what one has got to do with the other. Why should an architect or a developer (especially outsourced) worry about the culture of the organization when designing and developing a piece of software? Or why should the consumer of the software worry about whether the software is in lines with the…

Ok you might ask what one has got to do with the other. Why should an architect or a developer (especially outsourced) worry about the culture of the organization when designing and developing a piece of software? Or why should the consumer of the software worry about whether the software is in lines with the organizational culture?

Let’s start at the very beginning – get some boring definitions in place so we are on the same page.

Culture is the “way we do things around here – a shared belief” – it is essentially the human behavior within an organization derived from a set of unwritten norms, hopefully towards the same organization goals (whatever that may be).

Custom Software is a piece of software written to spec or scope which is custom to the needs of those who came up with those needs, hopefully to solve a business problem.

So what has one got to do with the other?

Let me tell you this one incident.

I was once working with one of our developers in India. We were working on a piece of custom software for a clinic. This Manhattan clinic had a very modern, chic vibe to it – starting from the art on the wall, the lifestyle magazines, and the contemporary furniture to the very vibrant staff, dressed in trendy office-wear, and a voice message that said “Thanks for calling. We are sorry you may be sick, but that’s just temporary! Why not tell us or text us and we will get right back to you.”

Obviously our developer in India could not picture this – not saying clinics in India do not have similar vibes but this was a chic Manhattan clinic and they were obviously proud of the modern outlook and a very New Yorkish culture it held. So when we delivered the system with colors that matched the art on their walls and messages that said “Sorry the computer is having some difficulties but it can be easily fixed if you call support”, we were a hit! It was almost as if the software was one of the employees who held the same values and the same New York feel.

Many CEO s and Executives try to instill a particular culture to their organizations. It is their way of getting everyone on the “same page” so that the organizational goals can be met. It is a way of telling everyone what to do, without actually saying it or pushing it down their gullet. It takes a while before the culture evolves and if done right, it can be a huge competitive advantage. Take for example companies like Google, Apple – they have a strong culture and their employees strongly believe in that culture, creating winning products and services.

Custom software development is not just about solving a problem; it is also about making sure the solutions fits the organization’s culture in which it needs to solve the problem. For eg:

Organizations that believe in lean processes will need software that has more focus on the process than the details of the screens.

Organizations that use Kanban methodologies needs software that shows a lot of data in the Kanban formats.

Organizations that embrace DevOps will also embrace agile software development.

Start-ups with social/modern/flat/open cultures try to work with software that are social enabled or in open source.

Companies that have traditional, corporate culture needs software that has well defined and audited processes with more focus on stringent controls.

The bottom line is this – any custom software is developed to a given scope and spec. The ones that go the extra mile to understand the culture of the organization where the software will run will be embraced more by the users. In the end it is all about satisfying the end user, is it not?

 


Roni Banerjee

roniRoni has 16 years of experience in leading small to large scale IT projects for various markets. Roni successfully founded 2 companies spanning multiple locations and time-zones. He rolls up his sleeves and gets into software development anytime you ask him and database development is his passion – we call him “our sequel junkie”! Roni has a Bachelor’s in Engineering, his very valued PMP and is close to finishing his Global MBA from the coveted Warwick Business School in the UK. When asked about his personal life he says “We, my wife and 2 boys, live in the picturesque Hudson Valley region of New York. A Yankees and New York Giants fan, I also enjoy strumming my guitars every day, mixing recipes from different cultures when I get some time and hack away during an occasional round of golf.”

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