What comes first, the problem or the solution?


Rather than spending months on requirements specifications followed by long, complicated implementations that by the time they’re ready to launch are already behind the eight ball, kick off a pilot initiative with the latest technology attainable and build up the solution on the fly.


Best practices of methodical analysis and detailed clarification of business requirements are so 20th century. Today, affordable cloud-based technology enables a whole new approach to software solutions. Now, you can easily try out new technologies and refine implementation decisions as you go on. With the fast pace the business is moving, this seems to be the only way to stay ahead of competition.


A study on evolving relationship between business and technology, published at the MIT Sloan Review of 2018, calls to “Implement first, ask questions later (or not at all)”. As put by one business process manager at a Fortune 100 pharmaceutical company: “We’ve abandoned the strict ‘requirements-first, technology-second’ adoption process, whatever that really means. Why? Because we want to stay agile and competitive and want to leverage new technologies. Gathering requirements takes forever and hasn’t made our past projects more successful.” 1


Companies are no longer investing a great effort in attempt to measure and estimate ROI, as they’ve realized this is quite meaningless. It’s rather utilization and relevancy of a solution that make the difference and these cannot be calculated upfront. Monetary gain comes from cost reduction achieved by avoiding the launch of large-scale projects that all too often become obsolete sooner rather than later. Apparently, wasting precious time on assuming future needs is far more costly than testing out several new technologies.


One of our recent new clients, a pharma Fortune 500 company, is a great believer in the ‘Implement First’ method, allowing emerging new technologies to drive their requirements. We used our Sand Box methodology to enable an unprecedently quick launch of a pilot initiative, which was up and running within 6 weeks instead of the typical 9-12 months for such projects. The Sand Box methodology utilizes a steering committee that involves end-users from the early stages of design, with the guidance of our domain experts, to continuously add requirements and refine the solution, leading to a hands-on experience that is far superior to the old wire frame methodology. It was amazing to follow how the project constantly evolved and enhanced based on users’ feedback, leading to a genuinely incomparable ROI, record time-to-productivity, and a very happy project team.


Detailed business requirements may literally be unknowable until companies can try out new technologies. Pilot projects based on a new technology will dynamically change to bring about concrete value to end users and sometimes may even fail. Though still, piloting is a much favorable alternative to moving slowly with detailed requirements clearly spelled out in advance. As Mark Zuckerberg suggested: “move fast and break things.”


1)  Implement First, Ask Questions Later (or Not at All)

Magazine: Summer 2018 Issue Frontiers Research Highlight April 13, 2018

Stephen J. Andriole