Day 10: Balancing Business And Development Priorities

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If you asked a development team about an application, specifically asking how that application should be developed, they would probably tell you that the application should be developed to be as easily maintainable as possible. If you asked the business analysts the same question, they’d probably say that an application must serve the business needs exclusively, and that features should be packed on as fast as possible in order to meet those business needs. Who is right?

Turns out they’re both wrong. This leads us to our tenth principle: modern applications must be oriented to the developer, but focused on the business.

You’re probably thinking, “well that makes no sense.” Let’s break this down a bit.

What does it mean to be oriented to the developer? It means giving developers time to make the project easy to maintain and build. It means ensuring that developers have the ability to make changes and improvements independently of the feature cadence, so that the project doesn’t die from technical debt or abuse. It means giving developers the time they need to experiment with new technologies that might make the project run better or more efficiently.

Focusing on the business means giving the business what it needs to do business, and be effective. It means prioritizing features to a degree, and ensuring that necessary or critical features are not backlogged by bureaucracy or red tape. It means ensuring that the business needs are met, as a high or the highest priority.

How do you balance these things?

To orient to developers while focusing on the business, you must leave space for both needs and allow both needs to be accomplished. For example, most businesses love to maximize their story points in a given week; they want to make sure feature development moves ahead at full speed. But a forward-thinking business will leave 25% to 50% of a developer’s schedule unfilled. This number might seem really high at first but consider: bugs are not considered stories but must be fixed. And for any enhancements or improvements to be made outside the system of story points, user stories and feature requests, developers need time.

For their part, businesses would do well to ensure developers understand the business needs –  not just from a “here’s what the business needs” perspective but from a strategic, big picture perspective. Developers like to be involved, and they can assist much more effectively if they have the big picture.

This is really a long way of saying that business and development need to balance each other’s needs, prioritizing one thing some of the time, and another thing other times. This careful balancing act never ends, and both teams should meet regularly to ensure the balance is correct and that the business (and application) are moving forward at the right pace. This balance will achieve great results for your team, but only if you let it.

Posted on 1/4/2021 at 8:45 am
Categories: Business, Development

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