How to get business value for every dollar you spend on development – Part 1

I’ve spent many years managing development projects in high-tech industries. My experience teaches me that people doing development are extremely aware that their time and effort is frequently wasted, for a lot of different reasons. The key point for you as a business leader is that wasted effort is the same as wasted dollars.

It’s actually worse than that. Because you depend on deploying new systems, software or business processes on schedule, any delay – or a complete failure to deliver the result – costs you further in savings you expected to have after the system, the product or the service begins. And if it’s a product from your company, you also lose market share to competitors and therefore never realize the life-of-product revenue you were expecting.

One of the key indicators of waste is finding that your managers decide to kill projects because they are not progressing fast enough, or because they are not meeting functional or performance targets. Or they are choosing to live with deficient systems or products because there are not alternatives.

Here are a couple of causes of slow or deficient development projects:

  1. Inadequate definition (“requirements”) of the project or product.
  2. Reliance on a big up-front “requirements” process resulting in a document that is not revised and adapted regularly as the development progresses.

The first cause may happen due to insufficient information being available to your business managers, so they can’t make informed decisions about either the requirements or the development process itself. The second cause is very common in large organizations or large projects, because they are modeled on construction projects, which are very different from IT or product development in high-tech fields.

To counteract these causes, you may have to change the culture of project definition in your organization. Your business managers need to commit to involvement in the development process. And your project managers need to investigate modern methods of doing development, particularly the “agile” or iterative development methodologies. The main point is to define incremental development milestones that can be visibly demonstrated on a time scale that is short (less than a month, typically), and coupled with immediate feedback and counsel from business managers who are responsible for delivering results.

If you don’t have such processes working in your organization now, it’s time to get going on them. Before you see another big project cancelled for lack of progress.

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John Levy helps executives get business value from every dollar they spend on development. He specializes in rapidly getting development teams in IT and Engineering to align with business strategy and to contribute to business success of the enterprise.

John has been consulting for managers in industry for over 20 years.   John’s book on management for technology executives, Get Out of the Way , was published in May 2010.

For more information, please visit his website at

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About John Levy

John Levy, Ph.D. is an expert in computers, software and storage who is available for consulting in patent litigation.

For more information, email him at, or call 415 269-4096.
And check out John's profile on LinkedIn!