Vamshidhar Kommineni

March 26, 2007

Scoping Software to make sure it ships

Filed under: Technology — Vamshi @ 10:25 am

Raymond Chen (one of a small set of Microsoft bloggers I follow regularly and someone who I have a great deal of respect for as a dev) wrote this article a few weeks ago:

You don’t know what you do until you know what you don’t do

I do believe this is an essential part of software development, right from an individual dev’s commitments all the way to large projects (like Windows).

As a dev, the more experienced (and hopefully wiser) you get, the more you realize that achieving success and satisfaction is as much about realizing what you can do in the given timeframe, and firmly saying "No" to every other feature request (and trust me, everyone always comes up with feature requests, particularly at feature review meetings after you’ve finished the feature).

For a startup or a small dev team, success on a new product/feature depends a lot on restricting feature creep and resisting the temptation to solve world hunger ("We’re not just building a simplified code editor, we’re going to build a platform to replace Word…"). I think OneNote and Windows Live Writer are two relatively recent MS products that I’ve used that have consciously evaded this trap and delivered elegant, focused and usable pieces of software.

For a large team, lacking a central vision and concrete customer scenarios can lead to lengthy delays and products that don’t necessarily have a coherent story at release time. This isn’t to say that there aren’t benefits of bottom up feature teams, but they need to be tied together with a central feature plan. And you can’t do that unless you reject some features (postpone to future releases, cut, etc.) with a "No".

I’ve seen the first and third above in operation personally. While I haven’t experienced the case of a startup team yet, I suspect it applies just as much there.

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1 Comment »

  1. I am currently grappling with this in writing the über-spec for our product Timely reminder to keep the focus. Thanks.

    Comment by El Ferrocarril — March 29, 2007 @ 8:56 pm | Reply

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