In my experiences as a coder, I’ve architected 11 “Business Management Applications” – or Line of Business Applications… basically the custom programs that help people run their businesses. These applications help facilitate the processes and procedures making the work easier for staff and more intuitive for new staff and let management keep an eye on workload, timeliness and quality. We’ve really become quite good in this space and can develop a working system in a relatively short amount of time. I’d like to share a few of these stories of how we’ve been able to help people get their work done.
A government contractor goes through a huge bid and proposal process to win contracts. Our experience is that they seldom put a lot of thought into the system they need to manage the work after it has been won. This is somewhat understandable as long as they budget the appropriate dollars towards software development. The RFP usually doesn’t have the detail needed to architect a system – we didn’t even get that detail after this business was won, but that’s where our talent for developing business management applications quickly and dynamically really shown through.
We were given 300 hours and about a month to develop a full system from scratch. The work the users, mostly nurses, would be doing is reviewing medical billing records looking for potentially fraudulent activity. We didn’t have any requirements besides the standard, bring work in, process the work, QA the work and report on the work – but that’s about every business management application we’ve written and we’ve built around ten of these so far. The new staff that was just hired was figuring out how the work was going to flow through the necessary processes and procedures and we needed to learn from them as quickly as possible to meet our deadline. Because of this, I knew we had to physically sit by the nurses and develop the processes and procedures with them. I find this one of the best parts of my job. I like working with the people who are actually doing the work and help come up with better ways of doing things and design our system around the people and what they do, NOT from a design document and in a cone of silence.
It was a lot of work to do and a lot of unknowns to wade through. The toughest part of managing to the hours and timeline is knowing when to spend the time on a requirement that might change the next day and when not to. I like to develop systems in a chronological order through the business process. So we cranked through the module that imported the data and developed the screens for the nurses to perform their reviews. We designed a QA module to randomly pick the reviews for a supervisor to double-check. We put together the supporting tables & forms for all the look-ups they needed to do. We wrote reports for the nurses to print out for paper files and for management to know where everything stands. It was a complete system still being used three years later – all completed within the 300 hours and the 6-week timeline.