Tuesday 20 March 2012

Good enough software

So the first question is what “good enough software” actually means? My current definition is rather simple: whatever makes the business owner happy. I didn’t mention any technical characteristics on purpose because business very often neither cares nor understands them.
Doesn’t it mean that we are doomed to low quality, crappy software that we can’t possibly be proud of? I don’t think so. I’m yet to see healthy, profitable business that thinks its IT delivers features too fast. And quality is a must have when you want to achieve sustainable, high velocity.
The fact that a team can complete tasks quickly doesn’t mean they work on the right tasks. As software engineers we are perfectionists and this is great but at the same time it means that we can become very easily victims of gold plating. To make sure this happens as rarely as possible (I don’t think this can be fully prevented :) ) we need to make sure that every significant activity is driven by the business. It goes without saying that having a prioritised back log is a must have nowadays. But then there are other, smaller tasks that very often are not driven by the business though they should.
One of them is bug fixing. It’s the business that should decide if a particular bug is worth fixing or not. This might be hard to digest for developers and QAs but it is the business that pays our salaries and it should decide what we work on. Our job is to make sure the business is aware of the trade-offs and in this way can make informed decisions. Same logic applies to Definition of Done, build versus buy and so on.
As a side effect of getting the business involved in the process of building software by IT we have a good chance to establish trust between those two which unfortunately is not very common.
Companies rely more and more on IT because it’s the best way to achieve their goals. But we have to keep in mind that if they find a better way they will switch away from IT in no time. So let’s make sure we stay No.1 as long as possible by building good enough instead of perfect software.

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