Remember 1995′s “The Brady Bunch Movie?” It was based on the clever premise that the Bradys were forever stuck in the 1970′s while the rest of the world moved on. The way we currently plan and prioritize software projects is kind of like that.
Thanks to the Internet, free/inexpensive yet high-quality open source software, and hosted SaaS products, there are more people and companies creating software than ever before. These days, a significant percentage of small companies, and an even higher percentage of mid-sized and large companies, dedicate significant resources to creating and maintaining software. (If you’re not sure whether your company does or not, here are a few clarifying questions – scroll to the bottom.)
With more and more people creating more and more software, you might think we’d be pretty good at creating it by now. Well, in many ways that’s absolutely true:
- The unit cost of computing power and storage declines every year.
- Services such as Amazon AWS and Rackspace Cloud make it easy to deploy software applications “in the cloud” (and scale with customer demand) without committing to leasing or building costly data centers.
- Software tools, platforms, and services are more powerful, cheaper, and easier to use than ever before.
- Agile has revolutionized the way many software developers write code. There is abundant high-quality training and coaching available for companies who want to start using Agile, and there is a broad selection of high-quality, inexpensive tools for managing an Agile development process.
- QA has come a long way too. QA is integrated into Agile, and many developers follow a best practice which keeps many defects from reaching QA in the first place. Last but not least, there are many high-quality and often inexpensive or even free solutions for automating software tests.
- Project management as a discipline has kept pace with Agile methodologies, and there’s even an organization which can certify project managers as Project Management Professionals.
Put another way, we’ve come a long way in how software developers write code, how QA verifies that it works correctly, and how software projects are managed. And once that’s done, it’s faster and cheaper than ever before to make software available to users.
There’s one aspect of creating software that hasn’t really changed. Ever.
It’s figuring out what software to create in the first place.
It’s true. Everyone basically “rolls their own” planning process and everyone does it differently. There’s no equivalent of Agile (Agile, in fact, can make life more difficult for product managers). There are few, if any, best practices. Some companies do it well, but I’ve found it’s something that many companies struggle with.
That’s why I founded Roadmap Integrity. It’s time to throw away the bell bottoms and join the modern world. I’ll be posting more on this topic over the next few months; for now, here are a few initial thoughts.
The takeaway? Software product planning—and the way we create product roadmaps—has been stuck in a time warp while software development, QA, and deployment/hosting is in the 21st century. Maybe it’s time to change that.
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