Software can be changed!

Published: May 20, 2013

Part of my current work as a product manager is to make sure our software caters to the needs of various user groups. That means I observe what people do and how they do it in order to figure out what could be improved. Doing that I noticed a fundamental difference between users and software developers: Users are not used to modify software! With my experience as a software developer, I see software as some kind of moldable clay that can be shaped according to the needs and wishes of stakeholders. This homepage and blog are an example for custom software! Users who only buy, download and install software see it as something constant: "Take it or leave it!". It doesn't have to be that way — in particular if you have an in-house software department!

I see it as one of my tasks to raise awareness: Work with the developers of your software and help them to improve it to meet your needs! Instead of just ignoring errors and complain, please write bug reports that state very clearly what happened, how it happened, and what you think should happen instead.

I know from experience that developers are sometimes not very forthcoming about suggestions. That's a communication problem, in my opinion. Regular users, on the one hand, have difficulties to describe what they want to change in sufficient detail for a software developer to understand. On top of that, they have no feeling if something is possible and how much work it would be. Software developers, on the other hand, often enough do not really understand what their software is or could be used for. They see suggestions as a holdup when they are under pressure to reach deadlines.

As a user, please be specific on what you want and why you want it. As a software developer, please listen and try to understand. As a product manager I'll try to facilitate the process and help to translate between the different worlds and languages.

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