Techies, geeks, boffins… the guys (usually) that sit in the corner and do the stuff that no-one understands. It’s unfortunate that technical people and departments are often seen as divorced from business functions such as management, sales and marketing, and accounting. I say this because there’s a lot we can learn from technical disciplines such as software development.
Of course, I would say this! Historically speaking, I’m an app developer but since we set up Mobetrics this year I’ve had to work hard on standard business skills such as accounting, marketing, networking, and branding. Whatever role I’m trying to fulfil, I’m trying to carry over methodologies and process that we use in software development as I think they can be applied anywhere. Below are a few of the core methodologies we try to use; you may not recognise some of the names, but hopefully the approach they advocate rings true. I’ve kept it brief so please take a look at the links if you’d like more info on any of these approaches.
Agile promotes early and continuous delivery of your product that can be evolved throughout it’s development. Change is welcomed throughout the project and the importance of collaboration and communication is stressed at all stages. In many ways it’s the antithesis of top-driven planning and a resistance to change no matter what has been learnt. An Agile approach is designed to ‘harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage’. Sounds pretty good to me.
Lean principles were developed in the manufacturing industry, originally by Toyota. A Lean approach advocates discovering components of known value and minimising waste at all times. Again, it’s the antithesis of strategic, top-down project planning. I’m a big fan of Eric Ries’ approach to Lean, and he tells us that we often build a product or service based on nothing but a stack of assumptions. The easiest way to test these assumptions in the real world is to build a Minimum Viable Product, cheaply and quickly. We can then start testing, learning and improving based on real feedback. A good example of where you could take this approach would be your website – these are often cluttered with content that we ‘think’ people will be interested in.
My favourite part of XP (Extreme Programming) is working as a pair. This is more fun than plugging away on your own (except when you fall out) and has the added benefit of shared learning and knowledge, crucial for long-term success. XP also advocates working at a sustainable pace. Pulling all-nighters and making use of excessive overtime is not efficient and rarely leads to quality. Finally, a stand-up meeting is a great way to start the day and it should only take a few minutes (so no need to sit!) Use it as an opportunity to communicate issues (and solutions) and generate focus for the day ahead.
As a final note, all the above spins the other way too – if you’re a Techie there’s plenty you can learn from other areas of business. Speak to people and find out how they go about their job!