Insights | For Better Software Development, Get out of Your Own Way and Focus on the Vision

For Better Software Development, Get out of Your Own Way and Focus on the Vision

By Mike McAuliffe | November 23, 2016

Business management guru Peter Drucker famously said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” Indeed, in my career I’ve often faced that exact challenge, which is really an issue of ignoring the bigger picture. Sometimes, as professionals, we’re more worried about what seems correct for the moment, and we fail to focus on the overall vision and what’s proper for the software product and the enterprise itself.

Perhaps you’re struggling because you’re spending too much time building your in-house software development team – thinking you’re doing what’s right – but you’re actually getting in the way of your plan and doing the right things. Subsequently, you’re left with little time to focus on the big picture, strategy, core competencies and business growth.

It’s Okay to Outsource

As a visionary CIO, CTO or other technology or business leader, your focus should be on making sure your software product is implemented or gets to market – and that it’s successful when it gets there. You can’t afford to spend 90 percent of your time figuring out how to build the product by means of hiring staff and only 10 percent of your time spent on delivering it.

The best use of your time and effort is to concentrate and direct your overall vision and leave the details of software development and engineering to your team. Just imagine the value of putting development into the capable hands of vetted outsourced developers who dedicate 100 percent of themselves to the technical details. That leaves you with the bandwidth to focus on keeping the vision in sight, and everyone will be stronger for it. By focusing on your vision, the vision itself becomes clearer.

How do you accomplish this? Through outsourcing software development to a team that’s already screened and certified to deliver results. Outsourcing software development doesn’t have to be a complex process, and you can get going quickly with a squad of talented developers on your side – not just one “rock star” developer.

Get out of Your Own Way

It’s not a sign of failure to outsource software development. On the contrary, it shows you understand how to best use talent and resources to stay focused on the overall plan. If you spend less effort on hiring, you’ll have more time to think about and revise your vision, express your vision with more clarity, and empower your organization to attain that vision with maximum success.

If you were constructing a new headquarters, you wouldn’t try to hire internally and build it yourself. You’d engage an architect and a general contractor. Likewise, many companies that need software aren’t actually in the business of building software. Rather, they need a software team to support a greater vision. Wouldn’t you rather spend more time focusing on your vision instead of building and training an in-house team?

Overall, the fundamental obstacle to achieving your vision is getting out of your own way and deciding to outsource; then you can focus on the right things – the vision – for your software and enterprise. If you don’t, it could mean disaster, according to a study from McKinsey&Company and the University of Oxford. The report says 17 percent of IT efforts go so bad that they can threaten the very existence of the company.

3 Tips for a Better Software Vision

Here are three things your organization should consider, to be more effective with its software vision:

  1. Focus on Market Fit – Work Backwards from the Customer – When it comes to planning your software product, don’t start by worrying and thinking about the minutia. Think and plan at a much higher level. “There’s an approach called ‘working backwards’ that is widely used at Amazon,” said Airbnb Director Ian McAllister in a Quora post. “We try to work backwards from the customer, rather than starting with an idea for a product and trying to bolt customers onto it. While working backwards can be applied to any specific product decision, using this approach is especially important when developing new products or features.”

  2. Conduct a Significant Amount of Market Research – When creating or adjusting your vision, be sure to research and evaluate current trends and brainstorm potential trends, so your product is not unexpectedly disrupted by new technologies or a new way of doing something. Always think about the users. What do they want and need? Can you conduct user research and testing in advance? Research and know all of the possible challenges for your market. Anticipate future challenges that may develop. Be your own devil’s advocate and question everything about your software product’s concept, how it will be used and the market.

    According to a study, Long-Range Planning Benchmark Research Report – conducted by Ventana Research and sponsored by Planview and Financial Executives Research Foundation – companies with more up-to-date, accurate research and data indicate that they are better able to conduct contingency planning, adapt to change and make consistently good choices for major initiatives.

  3. Think About the Long-Term Product Road-Map – After you’ve done all of your high-level research and considered the market fit, it’s time to create your product road map. This is where you plan the steps to fulfill your vision. Consider budget, resources, time, staff, outsourcing and DevOps. Think about every release and update. Think product sequencing and pricing iterations, new features and functions that you want to add down the road, additional user testing, etc. Consider future releases as experiments, to see what users want and need, and where you want the software to go in the future.

Anna P. Murray, author of The Complete Software Project Manager: Mastering Technology from Planning to Launch, believes many companies rush into adopting new technologies to both gain an edge on their longtime competitors as well as outpace the startups, instead of looking at the big picture and long-term product roadmap. The result is a widespread business imperative that rushes to plan and complete a multitude of software development projects, undermining the entire vision.

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