Monday, December 20, 2010

How to push forward as a large software development corporation

The Art of War has taught us that when a skilled general decides on a strategy to execute on, they either move quickly, or stay in a position that yields a tactical advantage over his/her enemy. Incidentally, we can apply the same concept in corporate culture. If you take a second to disconnect yourself from your environment, zoom out to a birds eye view, you'll realize how really slow your team is progressing in comparison to the rest of the world.

Naturally, human beings can only see what is in front of them and they need to be constantly reminded of where they are and how they're progressing within their environment. That said, dispelling the blindness of corporate software development is like fighting against an enemy on his own turf and consistently having a positional disadvantage.

The question we keep trying to explore is: what can we use as leverage against such a tough and determined enemy? This is a vicious opponent that not only flattens the spirits of your teammates but paralyzes your abilities to think quickly, act quickly, and move quickly.

If your corporate culture finds itself in quicksand, take a moment to really assess the situation: as time goes by, you're sinking to your inevitable death. In order to really get around your slow and painful demise, you need to use leverage. The answer I believe is in the tools. Tools provide leverage. Much like a lever, you're able to use a minimal amount of effort but exert an incredible amount of force. As a software developer, my job is to write programs that are supposed to be useful. I've decided to generalize the role of a software developer because we are essentially builders, designers, crafters, wizards of the arcane, and automaters.

Examples of leverage are

- a tool that provides an intuitive user interface that all masteries (project management, engineers, and designers) of your team can use for software defects. (bug tracker)
- a tool that provides easier visualization of software requirements (diagramming software)
- a tool that provides sanity and health checks on your software (automation testing)
- a tool that provides a hub for knowledge sharing (wiki)

Since these examples are just tools, we must also understand that there is no such thing as a silver bullet. In some corporations, these tools may be used incorrectly, which wouldn't benefit the company at all; however, if you're able to maximize the potential of these tools and build a shared vision with your teammates, you'll find your company slowly dispelling its entanglements and pushing forward.

Good luck and have fun,
Jaime Bueza

Jaime Bueza is a software developer in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He has developed web applications for Nintendo, Starbucks, Electronic Arts, Ritchie Brothers, Kiwi Collections, Cox Communications and Microsoft. When he's not developing useful software that constantly evolves with business requirements, he's creating tutorial videos for aspiring front-end developers.