We built a product to meet the theoretical needs of an imaginary banker, how and why? (1)

A few years ago, as we were devel­op­ing a soft­ware applic­a­tion for a major whole­sale and retail dis­trib­ut­or, I made a new friend, a guy named Gordon Saris.

That’s him above. (Don’t look, he is pro­tec­ted by copy­rights; that’s why I had to remove his pic­ture from here.)

And if you are won­der­ing if I mis­spelled his name, think again; I can assure you that this is what he is called. We should not be fooled by movie dir­ect­ors!

Gordon acts like someone from fic­tion, but he sure feels real to me. His skills and exper­i­ence. The goals he has set for his insti­tu­tion. What parts of run­ning a bank he feels com­fort­able with, and where he’s likely to get lost or intim­id­ated. Does he ever?

Just try to pic­ture him, sit­ting in his leather pad­ded, light brown, desk chair, his neck­tie slightly undone, show­ing off his fash­ion­able white col­lar on light blue shirt, sleeves rolled up neg­li­gently, a man­i­cured hand hold­ing a cigar, as it should be held.

His crys­tal tum­bler is gath­er­ing dew, it is stra­tegic­ally placed at arm’s length, between the scattered files and the mul­ti­tude of gad­gets spe­cially made for the “suc­cess­ful” busi­ness­man.

In those days, Gordon was hav­ing rave reviews in the fin­an­cial press; he was run­ning a tight ship and his bank was mak­ing tons of money.

But suc­cess did not last, his empire col­lapsed because his admin­is­trat­ive team was facing prob­lems. We will see why in a bit.

Gordon was a great ama­teur of cigars, and not any cigars; they had to be Cuban. Sourcing the cigars in the US is tricky, to say the least, but Gordon had an excel­lent pur­chas­ing agent, Nick, in his admin­is­trat­ive team. Cuban cigars were sourced, checked and paid for, in the shortest pos­sible time. Obviously, no records were kept, and large sums of money exchanged hands. You see, Nick, used what is pejor­at­ively called, a slush fund. Money found its way in and out of this ‘box’ with little or no con­trol. Gordon dis­covered, later, that Nick had a weak­ness, and helped him­self, to some of the stock (of cigars) and to the dough.

In the course of the day, oth­er pur­chases were also made, and the account­ing clerk entered all expenses in the bank’s ledger. Espresso cof­fee and replace­ment cups were also accoun­ted for. I once watched the grin on the aud­it­or face when a 10$ entry for diet Cokes was squeezed on the ledger, between two mul­ti-mil­lion dol­lars dis­burse­ments. This situ­ation had to change. Gordon sense of humour dis­ap­peared when he was not telling the jokes.

In spite of his extraordin­ary memory, Gordon was always fum­bling his Rolodex, (the rotat­ing busi­ness card index you can ima­gine on the right of the ‘pic­ture’, just behind his desk light), look­ing for the ever chan­ging phone num­bers of his agents. Gordon voice would often go up, when he could not find the num­ber of a per­son he needed to speak to urgently; every call was press­ing in Gordon’s office, and Samantha, his sec­ret­ary, was always on the receiv­ing end of his bad tem­per.

During the rare moments when Gordon was left to his thoughts, he wished for an assist­ant who could respond, instantly and accur­ately, to his requests. Not that his needs were byz­antine, but they were always unre­lent­ing. You see, time is money, and it was very much so for Gordon. Sometimes he would want to look at the fine print of a thorny con­tract he nego­ti­ated a couple of months earli­er. He remembered the gist, but the cli­ent became demand­ing when things were not going in the right dir­ec­tion. The con­tract was filed. Samantha had magician’s gifts, lift­ing ‘the’ agree­ment from the pile of doc­u­ments scattered in the office. A short look (in your minds-eye) at Gordon’s desk will bet­ter con­vey what I mean. Samantha was at hand 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

Last week, I was hav­ing a short chat on the phone with Gordon, I heard him call for Irene, and inquired about Samantha. She was taken ill, appar­ently suf­fer­ing from exhaus­tion after a severe break­down. I could sense that Gordon was unhappy, and I quickly hang up to escape his pre­dict­able up-com­ing tan­trum…

I wanted to help Gordon. How could a soft­ware developer make a dif­fer­ence in the day to day life of a suc­cess­ful banker? My com­pany developed applic­a­tions that man­aged dis­tri­bu­tion, issued invoices and took care of accounts and ledgers. We nev­er looked at the nitty-gritty stuff that made a lovely day seem like a jour­ney through hell.

All the secrecy sur­round­ing the deals, the care one had to take when inform­a­tion was entered and stored in a data­base, the vir­tu­al locks secur­ity staff intro­duced to shroud this del­ic­ate inform­a­tion and the pain gen­er­ated when the cent­ral bank con­trol com­mis­sion came for a vis­it.

But Gordon couldn’t care less about the prob­lems of the secur­ity officer, he wanted glob­al res­ults show­ing on his mul­tiple mon­it­ors, and prefer­ably in graph­ic­al form­at, not like the nev­er end­ing, scrolling tables of num­bers on green mon­it­ors. He releg­ated these to the shelf under the win­dow. He wanted it all, the totals, the num­bers behind the totals and the details of num­bers that did not look right. In one word ‘everything’.

And yet this was not the solu­tion.

My friends could not com­pre­hend the fas­cin­a­tion I had for Gordon. Why bother get­ting to know this very per­son?

It’s all about focus.”

In the absence of focus, dis­trac­tions were every­where.

Gordon inspired focus, he promp­ted focus, he induced focus.

If I was to suc­ceed in help­ing him, I had to cre­ate a solu­tion that would smooth his hec­tic day.

I needed to cre­ate this great applic­a­tion, this great pro­duct, a pro­duct that would be born from the ruth­less sort of focus that made the right things right.

These will become the bene­fits that shall make our applic­a­tion excep­tion­al.

Within my team, every pos­sible bene­fit had to find its advoc­ates, every cause its cham­pi­ons.

To be con­tin­ued…

Comments are disabled for this post