City Planning and CRM

by john on June 29, 2003

I’ve often described my approach to building CRM systems as akin to building Rome rather than Brasilia. Rome is beautiful, revered, respected and something that was built up over the centuries to suit the needs of it’s citizenry. Remember, Rome was not built in a day. Brasilia is a planned city designed for cars, not people. It is the anti-Rome. I’ve been using this analogy long enough that I can’t remember if I borrowed it from someone or made it up myself, but since I don’t know much about Brasilia other than it is a planned city I suspect the answer is the former.

Thanks to the links pointed to in his article Brasilia, James at Ordinary-Life has helped add some interesting photos and color to this analogy for me. Some of the photos are eerily depressing, reminding me of an episode from the Twilight Zone or a future envisioned by George Orwell. Others admittedly are beautiful. There are a lot of good links for anyone interested in learning more about this city. I was particularly interested in learning that the design for the city was the result of a contest.

So is my analogy to Rome meant to deliver the message that it will take years to implement a CRM system? No, although in the end it certainly can take that long for it to morph into something deemed usable by users. More correctly I use the analogy to describe the rapid development, continuous improvement cycle that I try to advocate in any development effort. Release early, release often. The thinking with the analogy is this – there are more than a couple of ways to build something for people but two main ones are:

1) The perfect plan. Design, plan and build a solution around what the users tell you they need and want. Spend some long period of time delivering something that meets those specifications exactly.
2) Release early, release often. Strive to get something functional up as soon as possible and build close feedback ties to your users to listen to what is working and not working and adjust quickly. Continuous improvement.

The reason why I think the second approach is the way to go is that it has been my experience that people can convince themselves what the want but only until they start using something do they really know what they need. Often times until someone starts doing something do they realize what works and what doesn’t. So it has been my experience that while a little planning is of course critical it needs to be focused only on the planning around getting something up quickly – not on how to get from point A (today) to point B (desired future state), because sure as heck once you put that humongous plan in action you’ll find something that hadn’t been considered and you’ll be asked to change something anyway so you might as well plan for that approach from the start. It’s more true than ever these days that we are being asked to show ROI earlier and earlier in project cycles and to effectively do that you must plan around a continuous improvement approach.

Building a model of rapid development wrapped around a strong commitment to customer service and listening enables a true continuous improvement model that in the end delivers something that works for the users.

Interestingly enough it seems as though Brasilia is taking the continuous improvement approach to heart, as evidenced in this FAQ on Brasilia. I’m glad to hear they have decided that stoplights are now a good thing. Perhaps in a few more centuries it to will be as beautiful as Rome.


WONGCHAN September 23, 2003 at 4:10 am

i LIKE YOUR COMMENT VERY MUCH i THINK IT IS TRUE . April 23, 2004 at 10:30 pm

Link Whore That I Am

I havn’t browsed my referrer logs in a long, long time. A list of places this humble site has been mentioned recently. DesignKitten (Interesting design…) John’s Jotting Cipango Time is Tight Standblog Jarv Darice And She Said A Millio…

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