I’m currently working with DataCaliper to design a new online database to replace a MS Access system that no longer meets my organization’s needs. At the beginning of our project, we spent several days reviewing requirements with users to make sure we knew what type of data to collect and how the information should be reported.
When I’ve done this type of project in the past, the approach has usually been to design wireframes to show what the system would look like before any coding was done. This time, my vendor prepared a series of linked HTML files which we used to simulate how the completed site will work. As expected, my users had many more revisions once they were able to visually see the new design. But unlike when using wireframes, these HTML files will be used as the nucleus of our new database.
While we’re still a few months away from completing this project, I am pleased to see how well my users are responding to this approach. It’s been especially helpful since my main contact at the vendor has shown a rare combination of programming knowledge and people skills, e.g. being patient when users come up with new requirements that they didn’t mention at the original requirements gathering sessions.
As a project manager, I’ve learned that it’s not always simple for users to express what they want. So that’s why it’s so important to have ongoing communication with developers as a new system is being built – not just at the beginning. But I will also make sure my users understand that we will soon have to lock down the design and not accept further changes.
Another nice feature of our new system: in most cases, users with administrator rights will be able to add their own options for drop down menus through an ‘manage codes’ process. This reduces the work that has to be handled by our developer.
Even if you pick a great product or platform you select for your next database, you won’t be successful unless you also select the right partner to work with. (Reminder – interview at least three vendors and make sure you check references before making your choice).