The “Why” in requirements management

by | 14.12.2017 | Software development | 0 comments

It happened in the music business and in the film business as well. It happened in the automobile industry, in passenger transport and in the food industry also. Many areas and industries are dealing with disruptions that change, vanish or create new markets. In the past, music was listened to on record players, cassette recorders, walkmans, discmans or MP3 players. Today, most people own records and CDs only for sentimental reasons, because the possession of sound carriers is no longer important for listening to music. Today, music is often streamed via flat rate. Times are changing. So do needs and technical possibilities. Recognising these different scenarios, opportunities and markets is a very important task in the process of requirements engineering of the manufacturers of corresponding devices and solutions. But how can manufacturers even grasp these scenarios and which fundamental questions help to understand the needs of future users and customers?

The Golden Circle of Simon Sinek

In answering the questions about the needs of future users and customers, there are various methods such as the Kano Model, the Penalty Reward Factor Approach or the Golden Circle by Simon Sinek. Sinek, a British author, journalist and management consultant, uses the Golden Circle to describe the interaction of “What”, “How” and “Why”.

Most companies know very well, “What” they are doing. They develop cars, produce skateboards or develop mobility concepts for residents in major German cities. The “How” is also known in the companies. They define processes, change production techniques and use modern tools. Companies have a great deal of expertise when it comes to the “what” and “how”. This is where efficiency goals are defined, unique selling propositions are worked out and value propositions are defined. However, when it comes to the “Why”, organisations often have difficulties. Why does a company develop cars? What is the motive and drive behind this activity? And why should users, clients, customers choose a manufacturer’s solution or product when there are similar solutions and products from other manufacturers? 

The Golden Circle by Simon Sinek

Why, Why, Why?

“Why” is the most important question for companies. If you ask yourself this question, you will quickly discover that it is not easy to answer. Not in management, not in marketing and not in product development. And “why” is that? Because the question of “why” is the biggest of all questions. Both for people and for organisations. Maybe the answer is even more difficult for companies, because an organisation often consists of many people. Probably most people know “why” they work, whether it is paying bills by rewarding them for the time they invest, working with like-minded people, improving the world on a small scale, or creating new opportunities, products or services. For an organisation, however, this rarely provides an answer to the question of “why”.

If companies deal with the “Why”, then often from the outside to the inside. They know their “what” and deal with the “how” in detail. Then they try to deduce from the “What” and the “How”, “why” you actually build cars or produce record players. The bigger, more international and older an organisation is, the more challenging it is to find a true answer. The correct answer is usually provided by the founder of the company. They are able to formulate the “Why” in one or two short sentences and thus explain their motivation and drive. The “Why” was the starting point for the foundation and existence of the company, it was its core and centre. In other words, the “Why” gave rise to the “How” and the “What”.

“Why” in the implementation of requirements

Do you know of companies that have disappeared from the market in whole or in part despite excellent products or services? You can probably think of many others besides Kodak, Quelle, Nokia, Grundig, Horten, Praktiker, Commodore, Maybach, Hamburg-Mannheimer, Yes Torty, Zündapp, Fokker or Bilka. This is not surprising, because companies are in competition and success in the past is no guarantee for success in the present or future. The markets and habits change sometimes so dramatically that many companies had no chance of survival. Stop! This is where the Golden Circle comes into play. Music lovers want to hear music, not own it. People want to get from A to B comfortably, quickly and safely – do you have to buy a car for that? Holidaymakers want to find a nice holiday home – do they need a travel agency for that? People need food, why should they buy it personally in a supermarket?

Companies often find this change of perspective very difficult. They optimise the processes, components and products that were important for their success, i.e. the “what” and the “how”. How can a walkman rewind the cassette even faster, how can the flow of visitors in the supermarket be better controlled, what are the best opening hours for a video store? Users, clients and customers are changing their habits. Or even more clearly: You are changing your habits. But many manufacturers pay relatively little attention to you and the possible scenarios of the application you are supposed to use. It’s not enough to simply implement requirements or implement basic and performance factors – the “why” is more than just a short-term and short-sighted understanding of you and of customers in general. Holistically questioned and answered, the “Why” opens up new insights, new perspectives and new opportunities.

Conclusion

Not only does it make a lot of sense to deal with Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle when working with requirements, it is almost essential. “Why” do we as a company do what we do? Will we still be doing that tomorrow? And the day after tomorrow as well? In five, seven or ten years? In day-to-day business it is difficult to always look to the future. A business idea usually cannot be implemented quick & dirty, but techniques such as minimal viable products or the use of personas allow companies to develop step by step, to test ideas and products at an early stage and to focus on the user or at least an imaginary representative of the target group. Companies gain more insights and will not only optimise existing products faster and more efficiently. They get the chance to prepare themselves for the future, even to design it themselves. And all this by answering the question “Why”.

Michael Schenkel
Michael Schenkel

Head of Marketing, t2informatik GmbH

Michael Schenkel is a graduate business economist and is passionate about marketing. He has a certificate for excellent hiking characteristics, Odenwaldtour in classes 6a/6b and since 1984 the Seahorse. He likes to blog about requirements engineering, project management, stakeholders and marketing. And he will certainly be delighted if you meet him in the real world for a cup of coffee and a piece of cake or for a virtual get-together.