Monday, May 21, 2012

Field left blank – Case for Sherlock                  

There is a blank field on one of the records. A blank field means that users are not communicating with this field. Users which are not communicating with a part of the system are a red flag. Why is it blank? Answer this question and you will be one step closer to a better and more complete system.
I like to do the next step when I review a system for the first time:
I randomly choose a single record and when I find an empty field, I look for the reason. Like Sherlock Holmes on a crime scene, I search for the motive. I am trying to understand what the sales rep had in mind when he left this field empty. He was already here, he put already some information but for some reason chose to skip this field.
There could be many reasons for this "crime" to happen. A field that is left blank is a silent feedback that needs to be read and investigated in order to improve the CRM. What is the user trying to tell me?
I can start by asking on the importance of that specific field. Will the world be a better place without this piece of information? Never be afraid to admit a field is useless and has no justification. Think how much the users will appreciate you for shortening their data entry task. You will be their hero!
I continue with the relevance of this field to the process of the sales rep. This is a good chance to see how much the CRM is connected to its user's daily work. A system which is not communicating daily with its audience will become irrelevant very quickly.
One piece after another, I am trying to complete the puzzle. The investigation can sometimes take time, but this is a crucial process on the way to a better system.
Once we find the answer, it is a win-win situation -
Catch a piece of information that was once lost – we made the CRM more complete
Remove an irrelevant part of information – we made the CRM more focused

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