Our Methodology

Basic Premise

The basic premise of our Client Service Methodology is that software is developed for clients, by clients, with clients. You are the essential part of any software project, whether a remediation effort or a new product development project. You are there when it starts, are there during its development, and are there when we deliver to you the finished product. It is your problem that is being solved, it is your business that needs improvement, and it is your system or product that you own. We understand this.

With Decision Design, you participate in every step, you see the progress of the software from beginning to end, and you see the many project management components essential for a project to be completed on time and on budget. We have built our own sophisticated software tools for this very purpose, enhancing and emphasizing your involvement in all aspects of the development process.

Components

Our Client Service Methodology has 4 key components, each with the client at the core:

All of our software projects start the same way, in Discovery. Discovery is about learning what you want AND what you need. It includes technologies, process, workflow, look and feel, and the underlying business process that is to be automated or remediated. It identifies and examines the overall vision of the system, what problem it is supposed to solve or what service it will provide. Discovery includes creating Scope of Work, writing the proposal, developing a cost and schedule and assigning the project team. Discovery is about all the tasks and preparation to building software.

The Client Side of Discovery

But Discovery is equally about developing the relationship between Decision Design and you. It is about learning each other’s needs, how we both process information, and our mutual expectations for working together. While it is about software requirements and schedules, it is also about setting expectations and developing a trusting relationship.

Our Greatest Strength is Our Expertise

Discovery is about you learning that we are open to change and can be relied upon for our expertise. New software can be difficult to envision. You’re not sure exactly what you want. Other software companies expect you to figure it all out ahead of time, before development can ever begin. But while you might be able to articulate a vision, you will likely not know for sure what is needed until you can actually see and touch it. We can help you here. Our greatest strength is our deep experience in software and what works and doesn’t work. Decision Design has been building software for a long time. Hundreds of software systems, hundreds of clients, thousands of automation problems solved. We really do know what we are doing. And when we can put this expertise to work to shape your wants we are at our best. This is a profound difference between your basic offshore (or on-shore) software factory giving you what you thought you wanted (and didn’t) and our far more effective client-based methodology that gives you what you actually need.

Value Before We Even Start

In Discovery, we provide value even before we start a project, even before you contract our services. During our initial discussions, when we are getting acquainted with your needs, we are already providing value. Our initial Scope of Work document, a document that we provide you before we even quote the job, gives you more information than you had before. We identify your needs, technologies, our plan for development, tasks, schedule, and costs. The Scope of Work document sets the foundation for a long term relationship with us.

Long Term Discovery

And while Discovery is primarily an early component to our relationship, Discovery never really ends. It is a continual process of back and forth, learning more about you and incorporating new ideas into your ever evolving software solution. We will always be learning and providing value as long as we are doing business with you.

For most software companies, you must design before you can develop. At the large IT consulting companies, for example, software design means Specifications, Reviews, Requirements, Process Flow Diagrams, ER diagrams, Object Models, and endless JAD sessions, design meetings, and review sessions. And all this before 1 line of code ever gets written. At Decision Design we believe that you must design while you develop and you must develop while you design. These 2 traditional processes cannot be separated. They are highly interactive. Remember, Design is Development, Development is Design.

No One can Know Everything Up Front

Design is the realization of an abstract set of business requirements into a real live functioning product. Design comprises the creation of an early prototype, its programming, client feedback, user interface, and database architecture. But central to our method is the assumption that no one can know everything up front. Therefore, even early software design must include programming. And while the programming is performed, new designs, changes, and adaptations are being integrated, every day. Indeed, the very act of programming and releasing prototypes causes the design to change. We provide early software releases to ensure that the design will actually meet the needs you expressed in Discovery. These prototypes are then used to change the design. Our prototypes are then worked and shaped and eventually become the final product itself.

We are Built to Accommodate Change

Changing the design, changing the code, and changing the direction of the software as new information is identified is a hallmark of our Client Service Methodology. We relish change, we promote change, and we have built our own powerful software development tools that allow us to make changes all within budget and all within schedule. And with no “change orders” or “scope changes”. Try doing that with another development company.

Companies Not Designed to Accommodate Change Will Overspend

Software companies that embed the design-before-develop mentality into their methodologies are doomed to overspend. Recognizing and embracing continual change is not part of their culture. Their designs are not prepared for change. Their programming techniques are not prepared for change. And when a company like this is faced with the inevitable design changes during programming, watch out. Change orders, quality problems, and delays will follow close behind. Indeed, the efficient use of scarce resources requires an interactive methodology to design and develop not found in most software companies. This methodology is an important reason why Decision Design is so much more cost effective than other companies.

Delivery is the most fun component of our 4 step Client Service Methodology. Delivery is when you receive your software. Delivery is when the software stops its many design and development cycles and slows down into a stable, functioning system. Delivery is the act of ensuring the newly created software works as designed, works as desired (not the same thing), and is ready to go live.

Anticipation, Excitement and Anxiety

Delivery is also the time when you feel the most excitement and the most anxiety. This is when the software is getting close to being put into production and there are many implementation items for you to do. These include user training, data imports, live data conversions, IT training, documentation, and awareness training for other departments, stakeholders, and management. Decision Design will be with you during this entire stressful time.

Delivery is Testing, Publishing and Going Live

Delivery is about Quality Assurance, full regression testing, and user acceptance testing. Delivery is about stress testing, load testing, and sequential multi-variant regressive tests. Delivery is about packaging the final product, writing the final documentation, checking off all the specification check boxes, and moving the system from one of our test environments onto a client’s production environment, ready for the real world. Delivery is about preparing for new users and administrators.

Delivery is the Best Part

But most importantly and the best part of all, Delivery is all about, well, taking delivery; driving that new car off the lot and bringing it home. From Decision Design’s perspective, Delivery is the culmination of hard work, long hours, tight schedules, and a strong emotional attachment to the product being delivered. From your perspective, Delivery is a both completion and a new beginning, completion of the building process and a new beginning with a system that will empower change and improve your business.

Once a product or system has been delivered, the software is officially in “support mode”. Typically, the system is being used, it is solving problems, and is doing the heavy lifting it was designed to do. But just because the software is “done” doesn’t necessarily mean Decision Design is done. Most of the time our clients retain us for some period after a system is delivered. During this period, we fix problems, make changes, and answer questions. Software can be complex and even with the most prepared Delivery plans, issues come up.

Our Commitment to Support is One of Our Greatest Strengths

Our commitment to Support is one of Decision Design’s greatest strengths and a strength that causes our clients to come back time and time again. Support is about quickly finding and fixing problems. Support is about redirecting a design that didn’t quite work the way everyone thought it might. It means making quick course corrections to ensure that the user acceptance is as high as possible.

No Blame Culture

Support means resolving problems without the blame mentality that is so prevalent in the software development industry. Blaming the client, the developer, the hardware, the network, or the user for a problem is counterproductive. It shifts the focus away from solving the problem. A culture of blame means a slower problem resolution cycle and more frustrated users. Conversely, a culture of resolution emphasizes that solving the problem comes first. At Decision Design, our maintenance philosophy of no fault problem resolution is another hallmark of our Client Service Methodology.

Great Software Support Tools

Decision Design has built several sophisticated software tools that integrate you with our development team to ensure that problems are identified, triaged, and corrected quickly. And by “quickly”, we mean as fast as real time, or within minutes or hours, never days and weeks. At Decision Design, we emphasize rapid response in everything we do. Our business is structured around it. Using our DecisionTrak tracking system, we can be notified in seconds if a problem warrants such quick response. Using our DecisionIM Live Help messaging product that embeds into our software products means giving users immediate access, in real time, to our development team. Messaging conversations are tracked by DecisionTrak, monitored by project managers, and provide exceptional information about the user’s problems. And our new DecisionAlert user notification system provides notification emails for news, updates, tips, maintenance, and critical communications, all structured and formal, without missing anyone that needs to be included.

Level 1 and 2 Technical Support

Support is about providing Level 1 Help Desk support for those companies that have no formal help desk or for companies that prefer to outsource it. It is also about providing Level 2 technical support for those larger companies that have Help Desks as the first line of user interaction.

Service Level Agreements

Finally, Support is providing adaptive Service Level Agreements that give you peace of mind that we will be available for immediate response should it be necessary, but not using a full time call center that costs money when not actually used. We use a Just-In-Time help desk model that keeps costs low and provides the highest quality response.

Summary

So that’s how it works. If you made it this far (and if you have, bravo, your persistence will be rewarded), you have learned about our 4 step Client Service Methodology of Discovery, Design, Delivery, and Support, all embedded with the client as the focus, all working to provide the best software. Sure it is a methodology, but not like one you have seen before.