Under the laws of our universe, gravity is inviolable – except when it isn’t. Gravity works differently at different scales and we still don’t have an explanation for everything we see. Because in fact there are no rules. Humans just make up rules to explain what we experience.
These blind spots that we have as humans also find their way into our everyday work. We do the same when building software and IT systems. We think there are rules. We think we can control costs and derive clear benefits – but often we’re guessing on both.
At a micro-level, rules can exist in software (compiler rules), at a more granular level they become harder to enforce but they exist in grammar and patterns. At some point, as systems get closer to the user, the rules become vaguer. Design, feature, product. Once the rules become ill-defined – we often do not admit defeat but instead, we look for new rules to explain new behaviours.
For decades, the business has tried to control IT and software costs through frameworks and estimation processes which promise linearity. Money in for projects out.
We know enough now to say that no IT or software project can promise this linearity. There is no relationship between cost and result.
What we can do, is ensure that a company as a whole is incentivized to make software delivery a success. How? By investing everyone in the success of the project.
Only by putting IT and software delivery at the heart of your business, and at the heart of everyone’s business in your business, can you succeed with any project.
And how do you make everyone invest in the success of a project? By making them excited about the change that IT project will have for the success of the business.
In 2018, the book Accelerate provided a framework that created a direct relationship between the technical behaviours of a successful technology-led organisation and its commercial performance. It didn’t predicate the behaviours on current ‘maturity’ of an organisation by any existing framework. Instead, it proposed improving performance through Continuous Delivery, Architecture, Product & Process, Lean Management and Monitoring and Cultural measures.
While many of these approaches do not apply directly to all businesses, many businesses now see software as crucial to their success. Vendors should be held accountable for their operation procedures and way of working.
Accelerate says in particular on Culture:
- Support a Generative Culture (from Westrum)
- Encourage and Support Learning
- Support and Facilitate Collaboration among Teams
- Provide Resources and Tools that Make Work Meaningful (in particular IT and software project work)
- Support or Embody Transformational Leadership
Shaping Up For The Future
Adopting in particular the cultural aspect of Accelerate’s research will be crucial in how your business adapts to the changing technical landscape over the next five to ten years.
From a control and leadership perspective, IT and increasingly software delivery is something that cannot be outsourced or left to be controlled by third parties while you simply foot the bill. It has been shown that for high-tech companies, IT and software delivery performance has direct impact on market performance. Increasing threats from cyber attacks, new ways of working including AI, alongside the now ‘traditional’ challenges of moving from data centre to cloud, mean that it’s no longer possible to ignore the increasing role of IT and software delivery in commercial operations.
What do you do? Read Accelerate, read the Phoenix Project and come back to me with any questions!