Development Process Stability

After shipping a first product, successful companies face a number of challenging problems in product development, including lack of development process stability as development work scales up. Here are some responses that have worked well in the computer, software, storage and consumer electronics industries.

Why process selection matters now

As Product Development scales up to involve multiple concurrent projects, three things happen to stress the development environment and to threaten its results:
1. The informal processes used at startup no longer work reliably to get quality products produced on time.
2. More managers are needed as the development department becomes too large for one person to manage directly.
3. Supporting customers and manufacturing takes time away from development but offers opportunities for feedback that must not be ignored.

This is an opportunity to choose good processes for the next 5 years. There will never be time to reconsider process selections. The cost of change only goes up.

Managing multiple projects is more complex.
Engineering and Product Marketing must cooperate in new ways to assure that the next generation of products is successful.

Founders and early employees who are technologists have been crucial to success, but they may not be willing or able to make the transition into a development environment that is sustainable for the long run.

Development processes

Development must move out of crisis mode, so that projects can be completed on a predictable schedule.
There may have to be changes clarifying who is responsible for setting project goals.
Project management tools need to be used to manage schedules and feature lists without overloading the development team with overhead tasks.
When a milestone is missed, rapid analysis and decision-making is critical to staying on track for product introductions. Certain metrics are useful here, and project teams need feedback about how they’re doing.

Development tools

Who is responsible for Quality? The Development department must get serious about product quality, even if QA is managed from Operations or elsewhere.
Bring in hardware and software tools for testing, establish disciplined procedures for release, and stay in the issue/correction feedback loop.
In addition, Development can provide useful input to product direction in the next cycle through interaction with customers and field staff.

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If you would like more information about how we assist growing companies with managing product development for the long term, please visit http://johnlevyconsulting.com, call 415 663-1818 or email info@johnlevyconsulting.com

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    About John Levy

    John Levy works with senior managers in mid-sized organizations who are responsible for development and delivery of major software or hardware/software products. He helps them gain confidence that their projects will succeed.

    Development projects can fail in many ways. You need a guide who speaks the language of business and is knowledgeable about technology. John aligns Development with the organization's strategy so it will contribute efficiently to the success of the enterprise.

    John has been consulting for over 20 years. His book on managing high-tech teams, Get Out of the Way, was published in 2010.

    For more information, email him at johnlevyconsulting.com, or call 415 663-1818.
    And check out John's profiles on LinkedIn and Twitter!