Aided by the emergence of increasingly advanced software engineering practices and tools, a “factory” approach to software development has become pervasive in the past 20 years. The concept that process and methodology were more important than people to software development efforts helped build a booming IT services outsourcing industry in India. However, as detailed in a new report from Nearshore Americas, Collaborate, Innovate, Accelerate, outsourcing software development based on a traditional model of cost arbitrage and heavy specification and process has produced a generation of de-motivated IT professionals who have lost the spirit needed to solve problems and come up with innovative ideas.
Moving Toward the ‘Partner Player’ Mentality
While software development is stagnating under the weight of the “factory” model, software itself is causing massive disruptions in industries including entertainment, mobile, gaming and retail, putting more pressure on IT service providers to offer innovation and advanced problem-solving capabilities. Forrester Research recommends IT service providers adopt a “partner player” mentality, which begins with highly talented managers making the commitment to hire and retain highly talented employees.
In addition, IT service providers with the “partner player” mentality commit themselves to mastery, meaning they create a development environment where talented developers are challenged to constantly practice and experiment, with the goal of continual improvement and excellence. Development team members are given shared ownership of projects, which helps foster the positive, productive attitude necessary to produce outstanding results. Shared accountability also promotes a sense of shared purpose that allows even a talented development team to exceed the sum total value of its individual members.
Principles of Lean IT Development
Ultimately, an IT services provider that successfully adopts the “partner player” mentality will be in position to offer lean IT development, or a development methodology that prioritizes adding value for the client and producing innovation while eliminating waste. Lean IT development is based on the following key principles:
1. Eliminating Waste. Lean IT developers don’t write unnecessary code functions or add bureaucracy to the development process. Instead, they employ the retrospective period following completion of a project to identify areas of waste so they can be eliminated in the future. Lean IT developers also realize that while planning is necessary, unplanned situations inevitably arise therefore they do not waste time and effort trying to make every decision in advance.
2. Building in Quality. Lean IT developers constantly test and look for bugs throughout the development process, minimizing the need for post-development fixes.
3. Stressing Continuous Improvement. Lean IT developers always implement the “PDCA” (Plan, Do, Check, Act) cycle of continuous improvement at the start of every project.
4. Delivering Fast and Iterating. Agility is a key part of lean IT development, meaning team members continually pick up the slack for each other in the event of problems and projects are broken down into many small, easy-to-complete iterations. User feedback is accepted and incorporated throughout the development process.
5. Optimizing the Whole Value Stream. Lean IT development teams are multi-disciplined and multi-talented to ensure maximum value is delivered throughout the development process.
Purpose, People, Process, Power
In conclusion, high-performance IT development teams that eschew the factory approach and instead adopt a partner player mentality and follow the principles of lean IT development build themselves around the “four Ps:” Purpose, People, Process, and Power.
Purpose means seeking to perform a leading role in the knowledge industry while redefining the value generated by IT in a world-changing manner, while people means respecting team members, developing strong team leaders, and engaging in long-lasting client relationships based on common values.
Process means relying on discipline and standardization, while still pursuing constant improvement and refinement as new information becomes available. And last but not least, power means making decisions as close as possible to the edge of execution, learning and adapting quickly, and nurturing a problem-solving culture based on facts and a team-based approach.
Of course, remember it all starts at the top. A provider with second-rate senior management will not produce first-rate development teams. As mentioned above, talent attracts talent, and then knows how to harness that talent to provide maximum value.
The new E-book is available for free – and is the result of a collaboration between Nearshore Americas’ editors and the sponsor of the project, Ci&T.