|By Randy DeFauw||
|February 2, 2013 12:00 PM EST||
By the end of January, it's estimated that 80 percent of those who make New Year's resolutions will have already broken them. The New Year is a time for reflection and introspection, but not necessarily one that leads to action, it seems. The opposite should be true during software companies' annual re-examination of their software development, however. The consequences of not improving development practices can be much more costly than gaining a few more pounds.
Here are six ways to whip software development into shape in 2013:
1. Deliver like Facebook: Facebook dominates its market because it delivers improvements to its site every day. There's no reason you can't deliver small, working improvements to your product almost as quickly. The software tool stack has largely caught up with that velocity, and nothing keeps developers happier than seeing working changes in the product.
So you're not building a SaaS product: don't let that stop you. Product can still rapidly evolve internally without a regulatory process - just adjust the continuous delivery dial back from production servers to formal release handoff. If you're the only one of your competitors with the ability to deliver this quickly, that is quite the competitive advantage.
2. Agile for all levels: You're not really going to be successful with Agile if it's limited to your software teams. DevOps was all about bridging the gap between development and operations, and you'll find greater success by taking Agile cross-functional - imagine your entire company responding as quickly to new requirements as your development team. Agile marketing? It's been done.
3. All aboard the mother ship: Your most valuable assets are your people and your IP - don't operate them in silos. Reuse your IP wherever possible, and make sure your teams can discover and work with each other. If you're buying a startup to acquire the talent, make sure you can incorporate their existing work into your systems in a week - not a year. Make sure they can keep using the tools they know and love (even if you're running something more enterprise-worthy in the background).
4. Take caution with the cloud: The cloud sounds great on paper. Low costs! Infinite scalability! No administration! But in reality the cloud isn't right (yet) for everything you do as a technology company. There are still performance, ownership, and reliability issues to consider. If your employees are asking for a cloud-based solution, figure out why. Do they want Dropbox because they don't have a decent place to store design documents and test plans? Then fix that problem before the team makes a big decision for you.
5. Be a realist: Engineers are practical people. If your current delivery cycle is a year, you won't get it down to a week overnight. Lay out clear goals with a reasonable time frame. If you can go from a year to three months, you're making huge progress and will get buy-in for the next step.
6. Study the America Invents Act: A major change to U.S. patent law is coming into effect in March 2013. Are your IP ducks in a row? Make sure you understand the nuances of first-to-file, prior use and the other big changes. To meet the changing legal framework, be ready to adjust your software processes, from initial design through to shipping to customers. If you're using open source software in your products, make sure you are in compliance with all the licensing and copyright provisions.
As with people, the new year is an ideal time for every organization to take an inventory of what is working well and what is not. The best place to start that process is at the foundation of your software practices - your codebase. A well-organized codebase will not only prevent headaches down the road, but also perfectly position your company for future growth.
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