How does Conway’s Law apply to Tech Product?
Firstly, what is Conway’s Law? Well, according to Wikipedia, Melvin Conway said in 1967 that:
Any organisation that designs a system (defined broadly) will produce a design whose structure is a copy of the organisation’s communication structure.
The classic Tech Product example of this is a website.
A company wants a website.
Let’s imagine merchandiser wants to start selling on-line to grow their business. The company has a CEO, Financial Director, Head of Sales, Head of Marketing and Head of Fulfilment. The departments are aligned to the Heads Of, they all have their targets to meet. The requirements are put together, with all of the ‘senior stakeholders’ mentioned above having their say. What is the end result?
Well, the result is that the new website reflects the needs of those very same stakeholders, as in it is optimised to the needs of the departments of the business, not towards the needs of the user. It is fragmented, clunky and a terrible experience.
Perhaps a clearer example of the reality is one that you may have seen before, where the online payment processing is run by a third party. To pay you have to leave the main site, go to the third party and then get re-directed back, with alerts like “don’t hit refresh on your browser for 30 seconds!!” screaming at you. This is likely to be because the Financial Director insisted that there be a competitive tender completed to get the cheapest tool integrated.
Of course, no-one would think that an analogues business would transpose to online directly anymore, but many people still put the goals of their department ahead of the outcomes for the customer and the business as a whole.
Putting the customer first
The customer doesn’t care about how your organisation works, who does what, departmental politics or whatever. They have a problem they need to solve and they have come to you to solve it. They don’t need another problem by navigating a tricky purchasing journey from you. They want to come to you, find an item, pay for it and receive it. Simple.
Going back to the payment processing, an example of a company putting a customer first would be thinking about how to make checkout the best customer experience possible, so a customer never thinks of going elsewhere. A good experience means increased repeat visits and acquiring more new customers, which should end up paying for a slightly more expensive payment processing system many, many times over.
What can we take away from this?
If your company communication structure mainly replicates the needs of the user, then the needs of the business and user will work in harmony.
If the company structure dictates the experience for the user, then it will show. The user will feel the repercussions of this, engagement and loyalty will be lost.
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