As readers of this blog know, I have a keen interest in serious games. Among other virtues, they provide a way to deal with tough circumstances by changing the way team members interact. In an upcoming research document on the subject, I relate the story of a development team that had to rewrite a creaky old application from scratch. Which features did the team need to re-implement right away? By running a serious game with the stakeholders, the team pinpointed which features were essential and why.
Democracy is great, right? We'd all prefer to have direct participation in the decisions that affect our lives, from which multimillionaire will represent us common folk to which features we'd like to see in the next version of Microsoft Office. (Please, please, PowerPoint team, just copy Keynote's auto-align feature already.) The more voting we do, the more we feel that civilization has advanced, and the better the quality of the products or politicians we get.
Polls Are Valuable But Inadequate
In recent years, application development teams have grown increasingly open minded, and in many cases even enthusiastic, about voting or polls as a prioritization mechanism. Worried that your requirements rely too heavily on interviews with a potentially unrepresentative sample of users? Take a quick poll to get a more accurate estimate of real demand for the work you might do.
One peril that holds special relevance to application development (or product development in general) is the missing part of the sample. By their nature, polls omit the customers you think you should have but don't yet have.
He's absolutely right. Adoption is often unrelated to the potential value of technology or the intensity of a person's need for it. An entire branch of social science started because farmers wouldn't always adopt better-producing seeds and people living in areas at high risk of an epidemic wouldn't take the medicine needed to prevent infection. Many doctors don't like electronic medical records because they're used to pen and paper. This sort of resistance can arise from a variety of sources, many of which are not strictly "political" in the way we commonly use that word.
While that might be an easy principle to accept, here's a corollary that's much harder one to swallow: Nobody is immune. If you think you're somehow smarter about technology decisions than a farmer, think again.