Friday, January 24, 2014

Costs of Software Beyond Code

So I might as well end my blog posting drought with a stupid gripe.

The software development cycle is but a small subset of the actual software product release cycle.

Sure, a lot of people are talking about Agile processes and getting a new release every sprint and whatnot but cutting a release for most software development teams means the following:
  • We have some features developed!
  • It's passed some sort of regression testing!
Especially in larger organizations, this is far from what's required to get a release out the door.

I work for a company where the developed software typically has 3 types of consumers:
  • Developers within and outside the company
  • A couple hundred marketing/accounting/operations folk who are in the same physical location as us
  • Thousands of marketing/accounting/operations folk that are scattered around the country
Oh by the way, bullet two govern rules for bullet 3.

Coming from a large "systems of systems" integrator-esque company, it comes as a surprise to me how little care people take for delivering to another developer team.  Of course, they care when they're at the butt-end of the stick.

However, what's even more surprising is when a team isn't aware of all the work involved once a release has passed QA.

Especially for those thousands of folk scattered around the country, there's a boat load of preparation going on.  Training material, help documentation, videos, webinars, and conference demos are done to ensure that major features or even changes to existing features are flowed out and can be referenced in the future.

... and THEN there's the support and any issue investigation in production.  

The amount of personnel devoted to this is practically the same headcount as the development teams.

The absolute worst thing any team can do is simply provide these people some new features and say good luck!  No release notes.  No Requirements that fed into this.  Nothing.  Else.  Awesome.  You just tripled the cost of all the post-development work.  You probably tripled the cost of QA since you probably did the same to them as well.

I am of the firm belief that solid requirements that are reviewed early on by everyone in the release cycle is the key to efficiency in any software project.  The key words being reviewed and everyone.  It's pretty much everyone's responsibility to ensure that this happens as early as possible.  Unfortunately, what happens a lot is that everyone pretty much throws their arms in the air saying that it isn't their job and a combination of snowball and broken window effect happens.

I'll try to talk about a Shangri-la scenario in a Scrum perspective and also talk about what the overall deliverable set should be.

When I get around to it.

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