August 13, 2015

Are you fixing your development problems, or just slapping on another Band-Aid?

Untitled designMany companies still develop products piecemeal, managing development items independent of one another. They know it’s not efficient. It doesn’t foster innovation. It prevents them from connecting the dots and making good use of their development data. But they do it anyway. Why? Sometimes, it’s just easier to slap a Band-Aid on a problem. They tell themselves they’ll look at the bigger picture when they have more time—as if time is just going to magically appear one day. They tell themselves that Microsoft Office products and other open source tools don’t cost anything—as if the loss of productivity and the overall risk to product development projects isn’t costly. Even if all of your technology investments have open APIs, who is going to code and maintain them—your IT department? I’m talking about companies who develop and market products that have some form of complexity, risk, or innovation. On some level, these products will have to integrate an ever-growing array of new technology: software, browsers, platforms, operating systems, languages, connected devices, and materials. The old assumption that integration or an integrated solution is too difficult to scope or validate is false. Arguably, your technology framework is already outdated and doesn’t communicate with other technology investments—forcing you to manage several tools instead of a single integrated solution. I thought companies made money from selling their own products, not managing products made by others.

Isolation Doesn’t Foster Innovation

How often have you heard these excuses?
  • I didn’t know…
    • you were done.
    • you weren’t done.
    • you needed my input.
    • you needed my signature.
    • the requirement changed.
    • my change impacted you.
Without connected points of communication—transfers, notifications, escalations, etc.—work rarely gets done on time. You’ll never have time to innovate if a lack of communication always has you struggling to meet deadlines. These connected points of communication may change based on the nature of the project and available resources. Regardless, companies need a business tool that adapts to the way they want to work and communicate, both internally and externally. If you’re not streamlining communication and work, you will always be stuck in a reactive mode and have no time to innovate or test new ideas.

Disconnected Data Limits Analysis and Effective Reuse

Anyone can manage and file data, but making sense of it is a whole other story. If your project data, reports, and artifacts aren’t connected, how can you analyze the data to see the impact, risk, and gaps? How can you reproduce success, if you don’t know how or what got you there? Streamlining and automating processes is good, but it can be ineffective if the data isn’t connected. Because most siloed tools and systems don’t facilitate information transfers, they are not good at providing effective reuse or evolution of data and work. Integrated tools, on the other hand, allow companies to automate and evolve these tedious manual tasks. Ideally, companies are looking at ways to make better business decisions and provide continuous improvement. So, how can they?

Traceability Is Not a “Nice to Have”

Traceability should not be a “nice to have” item hidden in an RFP or a simple desired feature from regulatory. It should be one of the most heavily weighted requirements because traceability ultimately provides the greatest value to your product development projects.
  • It ensures that people are on the same page.
  • It facilitates and fosters innovation.
  • It shows you the overall impact of change.
  • It identifies where the gaps are.
  • It allows for effective reuse and best practice development.
  • It tells you how close or how far you are from completing a project.
  • It provides the reporting that most regulatory agencies require.
If you start with the end in mind, you just might find that traceability is required for successful projects. Many companies can manage assets, but can they make sense of their data and relationships? Can traceability be overdone? Absolutely. But companies can avoid that trap by developing an effective traceability strategy.

Conclusion

While it may be easier to slap a Band-Aid on a development problem, the trouble is that you’re still bleeding. Maybe the damage is hidden by your temporary fix, but it’s still there, and it’s still costing you big money in lost productivity and an inability to innovate. It’s time to think about your development process holistically. Rip off the Band-Aid and spend the time really examining the problem. Then fix it right.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much better a healthy development platform fosters innovation.