Day 9: The Business Of Application Development

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So far we have focused on the technical elements of application development, and the development processes needed to effectively manage a modern application. But what about the business side? After all, all of us are employed to write applications professionally (or such is the goal, anyway). Open source is one thing, but application development for a business is quite another. This brings us to our ninth principle: modern applications must be easily changeable to meet current business needs.

It might seem that this goes without saying, but there is very real risk here. Application development that is done for the sake of application development is dangerous to a business, because it doesn’t take into account the needs of the business. Applications that are constructed in rigid, inflexible ways are dangerous, too, because business needs change and the application must change with them.

Building applications capable of changing is hard. Most applications are built against a specific set of specifications, and changing the application is difficult. No one expects an application to go from a piece of accounting software to an inventory management system; that would be unreasonable. But applications should be capable of changing to meet the changing needs of a business within their scope. For example, accounting software should be capable of tracking specific payees for reporting purposes; adding this functionality should neither be difficult nor time-consuming.

This is not to say you should future-proof your application so much so that it becomes unwieldy or unusable. For example, asserting that the company might switch from MySQL to Postgres is a silly proposition; if such a switch is demanded, this would typically be out of the normal scope of understanding and the business would need to recognize that significant investments would be required. But as a developer, you have both a responsibility and an obligation to know up front what the next six months to a year of initiatives will be in your business, and to be prepared to embrace and support them. If you don’t know what the next six to twelve months will bring, ask.

Applications that are inflexible or difficult to modify eventually get worked around, and then discarded. Businesses often take the path of least resistance to solving particular problems, and if an application stands in the way, it will be discarded.

When developing your application, consider whether or not the application can be easily modified to meet the changing and expected business needs of the future. You should not engage in mind-reading, but you should have a reasonable understanding of what the business needs are, and what is coming from the future. Embrace the future changes that will be required, and ask yourself if your application can support those changes. Solving for the future will ultimately help you in the long run.

Posted on 1/2/2021 at 9:00 am
Categories: Business

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