The “P” word – Process!

In the software development world, quite often the “P” word, or Process, conjures up more unpleasant imagery than it deserves. Process has a bad rap. Coupled with its counterpart, Improvement, its reputation is not much better. There are explanations for this that are easy to understand.

The core competencies of most engineers are to design and architect cool stuff. Process is usually seen as an impasse to moving that passion forward. In reality, the right process and an effort to instill a culture that supports and rewards continuous process improvement enables more development and quality in both the short and long runs.

Case #1:   “I don’t have time to even think about Process”

In start-up mode, there are many challenges that need to be faced head on, sometimes with the ramifications of failure being the lights get turned off. The mentality in this phase, when key milestones are approaching for functionality that may be tied to funding or critical time-to-market situations, is to hunker down and plow forward. This is an opportune time to evaluate yourself. Both individual contributors and management staff are focused and can get into a very myopic state that may miss some key opportunities. This type of process improvement is not found on the supermarket shelves and takes some effort. Getting outside help here could jumpstart the effort. Working closely with your team, using the context of your strengths and weaknesses, a correct application can find efficiencies even under the worst constraints.

Case #2:   “Post-Mortem?  Retrospective? I’m already behind on my next project!”

Yes, you might be, but you may already also be well on your way of a Copy/Paste of your last project’s significant shortcomings. At a minimum, a well-tuned Engineering team should take the time needed at the end of project release to inventory those things that went well, and those that need tweaking or significant repair. If this is not done you are likely to repeat mistakes that you made and further waste precious time.

Case #3:   “I already know there is a lot of stuff we are not doing. Why look at it now?”

In this competitive market, we need to look constantly at ways to do more with less.   Having an independent assessment, even of some of the things that may look obvious to change, may reveal true costs and benefits of the changes that would not have been possible with cursory self-inspection. Part of our services are to make a prioritized cost/benefit report at the end of the analysis that can help drive some immediate changes. We also help you plan and budget for other changes down the road on the next project.

Case #4:   “We are a tiny, new team. Let’s chat again in a year or so after we’ve ramped up”.

Having an engineering process vision, even before having a team large enough even to execute on all the pieces can make the difference of being a management team or a leadership team. Starting best practices will help define what kind of team you will have and its ability to easily evolve forward. It will help you attract and retain higher caliber employees. It will show the roadmap for where you are heading versus reacting to hazard signs along the way.

Case #5:   “We have done this before. We find a bunch of problems, agree that we need to improve. Then we leave the room and start over as if we never met in the first place”

Don’t worry – you are not alone here. Many folks who go through the process of identifying issues wind up repeating some, if not all of them again. Those who have had the discipline and rigor to integrate process improvement as real tasks are more successful. Failure to do this will rely on luck, which will be as likely as the process improvement leprechauns solving your problems for you. Remember, good process is a friend, not a foe. If you feel you need an intro to that friend, Q Analysts can hook that up!

Remember, a good process is a friend, not a foe. If you feel you need an intro to that friend, Q Analysts can hook that up!

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