As software is disrupted by new business models, technologies, and changing competitive landscapes, software teams are tasked with taking on a new ‘vision’ and transforming the way they do business.
Even with the best-laid plans, change is hard. It frequently doesn’t meet expectations. All too often, investors and management in technology-enabled organizations are unclear about the progress being made. When teams spend time trying to convince them, it is with minimal data.
To start, we find it essential to recognize the typical pitfalls to avoid. The pitfalls we typically see are:
- Lack of urgency or buy-in on the need to change
- Unclear or unrealistic expectations
- Lots of activity but little measurable progress
- Initiative loses momentum and executive interest
- Perception driven decision-making
- Long cycle before results are realized
We frequently see organizations rebooting an effort from where they left off, rather than collecting data and adjusting to achieve the desired result.
The following are some key principles for driving measurable change in software development and avoiding the most common pitfalls to progress.
The Catalyst event(s) is the spark that coalesces the organization on the need and urgency for driving change with measurable results. In every situation, there is some catalyst that initiates the need to make change happen.
The catalyst can take many forms:
- New ownership, along with potential changes in business goals and strategies.
- New leadership, with goals of improving strategy and operations
- Growth goals that require approach, structural and/ or operational changes
- Performance challenges such as missed schedules, features, quality issues, etc.
- Competitive pressures can change strategy, i.e., on-premise to cloud, productivity improvement, etc.
- Internally inspired vision for the future, which drives new opportunities and urgency
There are many ways to think about what constitutes a catalyst, but the most important concept to understand is that an incentive needs to drive some level of change in the organization to ensure it gets accomplished.
The opportunities understand the small set of critical levers to pull that will have the most significant impact in achieving the desired result. While several levers could be removed in most businesses, it’s important to identify which activities are most important and can deliver the desired results in the fastest time.
Vision and Roadmap
This is all about creating a compelling vision that gains the support of the organization and motivation of the team, including what success looks like in the future (measurable success criteria) and timeframe for progress.
This step is necessary to ensure the team is capable of delivering on the changes.
- Are they motivated to make change happen?
- Do they understand and accept the call to action?
- Do they have the skills and training to execute?
Progress executing change loses momentum very quickly and is not sustainable if it conflicts with the teams’ day job of releasing great software. It is critical that the improvement opportunities are integrated with your development process to keep the momentum and achieve the result. Opportunities are on the backlog, have measurable definitions of done for success criteria, and are included in retrospectives and status reviews.
We can measure our progress on technology with some simple planning and disciplines. Not only will this kind of planning de-risk complex initiatives it can also help to diagnose and solve problematic areas and deliver continuous improvement.
We’ve helped several investors and companies accelerate business impact. You can learn more about some of our transformation success stories here.