Fit for purpose implies that something does what it is has been designed to do, and does it well. The ability to identify when something is fit for purpose, or whether fit for purpose is required, develops with experience and can’t necessarily be learnt from a textbook alone. Having a clear understanding of the intended purpose, audience, domain and the problem being solved are all factors in clearly determining if something is indeed fit for purpose.
Thanks to my role as a Senior Business Consultant I’ve been exposed to a variety of roles within the software development lifecycle during my career, and the fit for purpose question has been something I’ve encountered in every role.
Thinking outside of the template
On one of my initial projects as a Business Consultant I was tasked with writing a business requirements document and insisted on using the company template as my chosen tool for this task. The structure of the template didn’t suit the needs of the business requirements document accurately and I found myself being frustrated and limited by the template. Instead of realising that this template was not what was required in this situation, I let it stunt my thought process and my energy went into ‘making this template work’, instead of creating a template that would enable me to effectively complete this task.
This experience highlighted how something may be designed for a particular purpose, but may not be fit for purpose. While the template was created to be used for business requirements, it didn’t actually enable me to do so and I shouldn’t have accepted the template at face value. Just because the template had been labelled as the right tool for the task, didn’t mean it was designed for the purpose I intended and therefor wasn’t actually the right tool to use to complete this task.
How to assess if something is fit for purpose
A fit for purpose document, piece of code, testing matrix or report may have a very specific purpose, but only if it is designed correctly will it effectively serve its purpose.
Experience and confidence in your field of expertise and knowledge of the task at hand is crucial in determining whether something is fit for purpose, or whether you need to create something that is fit for purpose.
Here are some examples of questions to ask yourself if you are facing challenges while using a template:
Why | Why have I selected this particular template?
What | What am I finding challenging about using this template? What would improve this template for my intended audience?
How | How does it need to change to make it work?
Understanding the task at hand
Before assessing your toolset, it is very important that you first assess your own understanding of the task at hand. By ensuring you understand the task you will be able to determine if the challenges that are being experienced are as a result of the toolset being used, or challenges of the task itself.
Have you understood the task correctly? Do you understand the problem you are trying to solve? Do you have a clear picture in your mind of what you are trying to achieve? If you have any uncertainty it might be necessary to do some further research or to reach out to your support network such as your peers, mentors or team lead when understanding the task.
Not every situation will require you to create something that is fit for purpose, you may find that simply making minor changes will result in the template now being fit for purpose.
In professional settings we often forget our creativity and lose our ability to play, experiment and learn from our failures. Toolsets, templates and best practices are all there as guidelines for us to consider and serve an important foundation for learning through experience. Where we truly set ourselves apart professionally is in our ability to draw from our knowledge and experience to deliver the best possible value to our customers – so don’t be afraid to question your toolset. Play, be creative and more importantly, have fun.
Written by Samantha Smith, Senior Business Consultant at Saratoga.