Press "Enter" to skip to content

The problem with development speed

Developers are the new king makers, the saying goes, so companies spend a lot of time trying to enable developers to move faster. And faster And faster The problem with this focus on speed is that “speed of development… and release performance are completely wrong optimization,” argues product management guru Itamar Gilad. It’s not that developer productivity is bad. far from there It’s just that obsessing over speed of development has blinded us to the greater importance of delivering fewer, higher-impact projects.

In other words, less really can (and should be) more when it comes to software development.

Less is more

It’s a bit like the Cheshire Cat’s response to Alice when she asks which way to go in Wonderland:

Alice: “Would you please tell me which way to go from here?”

The Cheshire Cat: “That depends a lot on where you want to go.”

Alice: “I don’t much care where.”

The Cheshire Cat: “Then it doesn’t matter much which way you go.”

In the case of software developers, they probably know where they’re trying to go (creating a particular application, etc.), but often haven’t really thought about what projects they could and should drop to get to the happy place faster. . Jeff Patton, founder and director of Jeff Patton & Associates, and author of the bestselling book O’Reilly User story mapping, puts it this way: “One of the common misconceptions in software development is that we’re trying to get more done faster. Because it would make sense that if there was a lot to do, doing it faster would help, right?

Like Alice, we rush to get there in some placebut Patton’s point is that we need to be much more deliberate about where we hope to go, and much more thoughtful about how we will get there. He continues: “If you play the game right, you’ll realize that your job is not to build more, but to build less.” How is that? For software developers, “your job is to minimize output and maximize output and impact.”

Less code, but more impact. That is the formula for success. But it’s not what many development teams do. For many, as Gilad details, “a group of products that has two thirds of the production really [can] create four times the impact.” The key, he stresses, is that “most of what we create is waste, [so] chasing production is actually creating more waste, faster.”

All of which sounds great, but telling developers to “do more good stuff and less bad stuff” isn’t actionable. The trick, Gilad points out, is to introduce more research and testing earlier in the development process, along with a willingness to weed out incomplete projects that aren’t on track for success. It’s not that developers sit around thinking about success but not shipping. Rather, “it should increase performance, but not launches.” Instead, focus on doing more “testing and experimenting.” By doing so, you’ll end up with fewer projects but with a bigger impact. This willingness to remove bad code early can make a world of difference.

Also Read:  Mendix aims to add generative AI to its low-code platform by year-end

faster and faster

All of this is not to say that speed is bad. In June 2022, developers turned to GitHub Copilot to generate 27% of their code. Just a few months later, in February 2023, that percentage jumped to 46%, according to GitHub. What is behind this change? Among other reasons, developers want to deliver more code faster, and letting AI handle the more tedious aspects of coding can help. This is also the reason why open source remains such a critical component of software development. As Professor Henry Chesbrough recently explained, even companies that care about security or other perceived problems with open source continue to use it because it improves development speed: “If we were to build the code ourselves, that would take some time. It might be cheaper for us to do that, but our developers aren’t just sitting around with nothing to do, and this code is already available.”

It is this same need for speed that makes companies turn to platform engineering teams to build railings for their developers. By offering developers a pre-approved environment to build with, Weaveworks CEO Alexis Richardson says companies can allow their developers to “focus on innovation, not plumbing.”

Citing data from how developers use the O’Reilly Learning Platform, Mike Loukides notes, “Software developers are highly motivated to improve their programming practice.” Figuring out how to improve coding practices was the number one result on O’Reilly’s platform, well above security, data science, mobile, etc. Developers and development teams keep trying to go faster, which is a good thing.

Part of that focus on speed should also be speed in weeding out bad code or ill-conceived projects, which becomes easier if we push for more research and testing up front. Going back to Gilad, our focus should be on doing less to deliver more. Testing is the key to getting there.

Copyright © 2023 IDG Communications, Inc.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *