Relevancy Is Not Simply On /Off

Flickr: Definitely Slow (1,012 views! and only 8 faves!?)I bang on and on about "relevancy" because it is the single* most important attribute that you should apply to your work. If we can achieve the perfect relevancy of a piece of information or a tool or a contact then we can sit back in the knowledge of a job well done.

Unfortunately, gaining relevancy is soooo difficult.
For instance, Google would like to return the most relevant search result for you at any one time - just one result, the most relevant. And they are millions of miles away from doing that.

Relevancy is not a binary attribute, it is a continuum.
Relevancy is made up of a number attributes that are, second by second, constantly in flux:
  • need
  • mood
  • urgency
  • context
  • time of day
  • ...
You get the point - there are so many factors to take into account that it's almost impossible (currently) to be perfect but we should not be scared of failing as we go for perfection :-)

OK, so how do you know when a piece of work (content, software, website, intranet ...) is relevant? There is only one way - ask those that have to use your work. Relevancy is indeed made up of many factors as I've stated but all those factors are wrapped up in the person using your work. Them, and only them, can state, "That is relevant! (thank you)"

And when you discover that relevancy is a continuum that flows within people you design your work to flow with them ... and therein lies the skill. It is not easy but there are plenty of extremely experienced and skilled people to help you. My talent lies in making information as relevant as possible especially when people want to work upon that information to a common goal ("collaboration" if you will).

To sum up, if we move away from the concepts of "done because we delivered" and
"done because we've reached the delivery date" and towards "done because that is relevant and useful" we will deliver better work and, I believe, far quicker and for less resource.


More on this blog related to this:

* And the second most important attribute = useful

Comments

  1. What about: we're done when we meet the defined project success factors. A discussion at the front of the project that gets everyone onto the same page with what "relevant and useful" actually mean for this project would go a long way.

    "relevant and useful", while being very important, are very hard to measure - how do you know when you have delivered something "relevant and useful". Unless you've got everyone on the same page with what that means, then you'll never deliver.

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  2. If you can guarantee that "defined project success factors" (terrible jargon BTW) don't change, and for some pieces of work you can - legislation requirements for instance, then all for it.

    For the majority of (internal) s/w work though success is, to the users, something that is useful. Why put up other factors?

    As for getting everyone on the same page (!) at the start of the work - totally and absolutely necessary. But we need to recognise that that is a snapshot in time and may need to be (regularly) re-visited.

    Hard to measure - almost impossible but that's no excuse to substitute for something that is meaningless. How to measure, ask.

    Thoughts?

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  3. Aaah! But I didn't say that the "defined project success factors" don't change. I just say that we're done when we meet them. We should expect them to change as we go along and everyone learns - and a good methodology should be able to handle that (even legislation changes...eventually :)

    I'm also not saying that we aim for "project success factors", I'm saying that we have them and that they're measurable. A great example of this came up in a workshop I had with you. Our stakeholder wanted us to support "employee autonomy". Like "relevant and useful", "employee autonomy" is hard to define and, well, fuzzy. When we drilled down a bit it turned out that she wanted "every employee to have the tools and information they need to do their job". Now, that's a good project success factor. It's measurable. It's a solid goal. We know when we've got there. Etc, etc.

    So, I suspect when you say that a project should deliver something relevant and useful, you actually mean that we should consider relevance and usefulness when we define our project success factors. However, having "relevant and useful" as project success factors is, well, dangerous as they mean different things to different people (much like employee empowerment can).

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  4. ps. I figured how to get your blog to email me. It turns out that the "email me follow up comments" functionality is on the page after I post a comment - not on the page where I post a comment!

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  5. "every employee to have the tools and information they need to do their job" - which is a deliverable to something, that something (that business outcome) is what we're aiming to resolve and not just make sure "every employee to have the tools and information they need to do their job".
    We could've given them [tries to think of non-useful way of delivering that ...], oh, we could've given them a printed page that told staff what to enter in the Web browser to get each tool (say) - useful, probably not but how would we really know - by asking those that would have to use the piece of paper.

    Yes, I am saying having "relevant and useful" as the project success factors is key (not "only", but key). It applies to the majority of projects and for ALL "knowledge" based projects.

    Exactly, it can mean different things to different people - are you suggesting we don't ask them because there are so many? Google and other Web comapnies ask the world of users if something is useful and relevant - not by face-to-face with everyone but using data: http://work.miramarmike.co.nz/2008/08/are-you-being-google-clever-about.html

    Maybe then we have to stop thinking "it's very hard and there's too many" and try and solve the "how do we find out" in different ways that may be a growth on traditional BA work ;-)

    What I am suggeting is a more a subtle shift towards the "real people" and for us IT professionals to then work out how we can do it.

    Whaddya think?

    PS: I tihnk you need to have supplied an email address to get the "subscribe by email" - adding a comment using your Google Account does that :-)

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  6. I think we're arguing the same point in different ways! I'm arguing that we should include "relevance and usefulness" (in more meaningful ways) straight upfront in our project success criteria - and it's important to try to be precise early on. It helps everyone get on the same page and aim for the same goal - and then know when we've got it (or when the goal is changing).

    I think we still need to do our "contractor coffee" ;)

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