When I look at my professional life as a Data and Analytics consultant at DevFacto, it is like I am on the other side of the table, customizing technology for what our clients need. A few days ago, I read the Jobs-to-be-Done Framework for Customer Needs. I had an epiphany that what we are offering at DevFacto is really a boutique experience with technology to our clients.
We build software that humans love to use, from the ground up!
By international company size standards, we are classified as a mid-size business. We are just shy of one hundred full-time consultants and staff, a team of highly skilled professionals shaping the five practices at DevFacto, namely Software Design and Development (SD&D), Modern Workplace, Managed Application Services (MAS), User Experience (UX) and Data and Analytics (DnA). Each practice offers a unique boutique experience in building technology that translates a client's vision or needs to reality.
We are highly client-focused. From my own experience in building data solutions, we always start from listening to our clients; understanding who they are, what they do, who else is involved and their pain points around data and analytics. This is a necessary process of discovery, so that we can understand the current state of operations before we ideate or provide meaningful design and estimates. We have now formalized this process in the DevFacto Innovation Framework. Some might think this process might take too long and not be quick to start "the work", i.e. development right away. My question to these individuals is, how do we know if we are applying the right solution if we act before we can identify and understand the problem and the business value? Being user-focused and mastering the discovery phase in a collaborative fashion helps produce a solution for the right-fit and minimizes waste during development and support phases.
Now let's talk about quality, which cannot stand by itself without applying product thinking and user experience. A product is built for purpose. We first look at the core functions needed, at what burning problem(s) must be solved. In Data and Analytics, that usually means if we are 1) turning data into knowledge to improve business reporting, 2) helping triage operational issues by providing elevated data insights with a reliable solution, 3) providing timely alerts for monitoring and performance purposes, or 4) automating business decisions within the compliance premises. We check what is available and what is possible in developing a solution given any constraints that our clients face, and then strive for the best path within the agreed-upon parameters with our clients. We also seriously consider the user experience of the solution from corner to corner. Do all the words make sense? Are they clear, meaningful and friendly, in terms of speaking to the right audience? Are the filters in the right place and consistent? Are the data visualizations and other front-end assets eye-pleasing in terms of shape, size, colour and positioning, to name a few? Is the transition of each action smooth, timely or at least as expected?
Most importantly, we foster trust in the product we build and the people we work with. There are two main aspects on this front: people and technology. This goal of building trust is achieved with the right skills, the right methodology and the right tools to meet the customer needs. Tools cannot solve problems on their own most of the time, unless the customer's organization is already functioning in the exact same use case that the tool was designed for. The most advanced tool could turn into a waste without the right skills that the right people bring to maximize its value. The key is to have a good team infused with two crucial capabilities:
- They understand people and technology,
- They carefully craft out a design, develop that design, and implement sufficient testing to build trust around the product.
It is not easy to find unicorns in the technology field. I am talking about those individuals who have mastered technical and people skills while being able to pull things together and drive a project through the finish line. I would like to believe we have more than a few at DevFacto, providing our valuable customers a technological boutique experience.
About the author
Shanny Lu is our experienced Data and Analytics Consultant and a Unit Manager based in Edmonton, Alberta. She has a background in data analytics, business analysis, data engineering and full-stack software development, holding cross-functional collaboration to heart. She decided to explore life in Canada on her own since teenagerhood, and later earned a B.Sc. degree in Computer Science with High Honours at the University of Regina and a M.Sc. degree in Computing Science, specializing in Artificial Intelligence at the University of Alberta. She loves an active lifestyle and working on various DIY projects as long as she can think of. She enjoys food, friends, family and a few furry "children" around. You can follow her on LinkedIn.
About the artist
Hannah Kelly is an artist living in Edmonton. She specializes in 3D sculpting but works also as a freelance illustrator. Amid copious cups of coffee and the occasional hiking interlude, Hannah enjoys pursuing her creative passions; always ready for her next adventure.
She writes "for the illustration of this article I chose to embrace the concept of a boutique experience and merge ideas with software/technology themed items throughout the store. I kept the shapes and colours of the scene simple and minimalistic, as not to pull attention from the customers enjoying the products or overstimulate the viewer."