How to be Lazy Where It Counts

By Chad Kreimendahl

I’ve got to admit that I have a pet peeve feeding this story. It absolutely gets me when people are unable to take the very minor step of returning a shopping cart to the cart corral. The thing that digs at my mind when seeing it is the absurdity of not pushing the cart a few extra feet, after having just drug it half-a-mile through the grocery store. The worst of the lot are the ones that are dropped just short of the goal. You’ve already done all of the hard work. Those last 5 feet, cart unloaded, light and easy, yet just too much to ask?

Shopping Cart Fail

The Same is True in Software

I think laziness can be a virtue, applied appropriately. When you develop software, there are many stages of the design phase that are highly critical to the final product. Too often, companies are in a rush to push feature releases or changes to their products that are “box checkers.” They’re trying to compare themselves to a competitor in a favorable light, without actually thinking about the problem in depth, or not considering things such as long-term performance and usability.

At Onspring, we’ve found that spending the extra hour or extra day to get the architecture and specific details on usability and performance down with confidence grants us tremendous rewards as we rapidly progress to new features and functionality. In this way, it’s the same as that shopping cart. We spent days or weeks building out a design for a feature, so why wouldn’t we spend a few more hours on the easy stuff?

Usability is easy when you talk to your customers. Performance is easy when you build it into the design and rigorously test it with each release. Spending a month or two developing a feature and not bothering to test and improve performance seems absolutely silly. In the ways this is important to our internal process of software development, it’s also important to your processes.

Some examples of “the last foot-and-a-half” solutions:

Change Management Software

We built our own internal change management solution within Onspring that guides our entire development process. It focuses on code, as our production systems are built to automatically update, without interaction. What’s powerful about our internal solution is that it’s specific to our use case. Out-of-the-box change management software solutions cannot compete with the flexibility we have in our own tool.

The base concepts of what we’ve built are shared with nearly every tool out there. However, that last set of changes is what makes our setup so valuable. The extra half-a-dozen fields, reports and workflows are where we get 75% of our value. Without those few little changes, we wouldn’t benefit much more than anyone might from a spreadsheet. That extra hour of effort has improved our product, our process and our company.

Vendor Management

Many tools on the market have the ability to collect vendor information, store various pieces of information and calculate some form of risk score or tier setting. Some even have the ability to process external surveys, though many of those require significant integration efforts. As mentioned above, many don’t add much value beyond your standard complex spreadsheet.

Why do none of these systems automate the most important part? The regular automation for the scheduling of tasks, such as annual risk assessments or check-ups… or as we’ve seen some customers do: automate employee reviews of vendors so that renewal processes can integrate an RFP selection process for vendors who regularly fail internal satisfaction surveys.

What an innovative concept! Doing an internal customer satisfaction review of your vendors by its actual users, and incorporating that into the vendor contracting process. The idea isn’t unique, but isn’t easily implemented in most systems.

Risk Management

We’ve seen similar processes to the internal-satisfaction review done in risk register solutions, where an aggregate scoring model is done based on multiple internal, and sometimes external, Subject Matter Expert evaluations. Value was created with only a small amount of effort. Risk was reduced, and more groups with diverse skills had quality input. These creative solutions are all about going the extra few inches to improve the process by miles.

The Result?

You get to be “lazy” in the areas that used to take all of your time. By taking a little extra-initiative and making a bit of extra effort, you’ve freed up valuable time for more important tasks. The menial drudgery has been automated. You get to chill and let the system do most of the work… to be lazy where it counts.

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