Keep the Change: Vacation vs. Software Delivery

Jun 26, 2017

Kevin Carney, Managing Partner | Kingsmen SDaaS™: Software Delivery as a Service

Plan to be Awesome

As our Chief Program Evangelist Denise Beachley will tell you: Continuous planning is the key to being awesome. Change is inevitable and you must be prepared to react.

I recently returned from a fantastic Spring Break vacation in Orlando with my family. On the way home I remarked to my wife how similar planning a vacation is to creating a software product. “Oh really?” she placated. “Enlighten me.”

Months back, we started our trip planning process by ordering the requisite “Birnbaum’s” guide books from Amazon and charting out airlines, hotels, and park days. My wife spoke with a neighbor who visited Orlando last year to get her expert input. We consulted our son to understand what interested him most.

We did our research. We consulted experts and end-users. The plan was ready. This should be easy.

This is analogous to how we start a software product at Kingsmen: we begin with a Roadmap of functionality (airlines and hotels), a Domain Model of key business entities and their relationships (which parks and in which order), and a User Experience Style Guide (rides, dinners, fireworks). This long-term plan forms the foundation of the project.

Change Your Mind … I Double-Dog Dare You!

General Eisenhower is famously quoted as saying “No battle was ever won according to plan, but no battle was ever won without one.” Our situation was no different (except for the battle part!). As our vacation began to pan out, we started to change our plan based on new information:

Yahoo Weather: “Forecast for Orlando on Wednesday: Thunderstorms all day.” No problem. Let’s swap the day at the water park for the indoor DisneyQuest.

Son: “Dad, Harry Potter World was awesome and there’s still more to see! Can we go back again tomorrow?” You bet!

Hotel Front Desk: “We just had a cancellation at the chef’s table for our trendy new restaurant. Are you interested in upgrading your reservation?” Let’s not pass up that opportunity!

Wife: “The whole family is exhausted. Can we head back to the hotel early for a nap before dinner?” Good idea. I’m exhausted too.

There’s no way we could have known this information ahead of time, so additional pre-planning would not have yielded any better results. We reacted to the newly available information and continuously changed our plan. All these changes ultimately resulted in a better vacation.

These mid-course adjustments parallel the in-flight planning we do at Kingsmen. We continuously adjust the plan from long-term to short-term including Release planning (swapping the order of park days), Feature grooming (spending more time at a park than expected), Story grooming (upgrading our fancy-schmancy dinner), and Task burndown (napping!).

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Satisfied that we had made all the right decisions, as we taxied to the runway to leave Orlando, I turned to my son to ask him how he enjoyed our vacation. “We missed Pandora, Dad.” he responded. “Well, Spring Break is only a week long and we chose a second day at Hogwarts instead”’ I explained. “Escape from Gringotts was awesome, right?”. “I know,” he lamented. “We had a great time. I just wish we had an extra day.”

And that’s where changes have trade-offs. Returning to the same park means we missed something else. Upgrading to an exclusive dining experience adds to the budget. We always have constraints, whether they are time, money, scope, etc. Given these constraints, we make decisions and those choices have implications. Your development team, whether in-house or via Kingsmen, has similar constraints. Continuing to refine a recently delivered module might mean there is less capacity to build dashboards. Accommodating an urgent new feature request may come at the expense of not delivering a previously promised module or extending the timeline.

Our goal at Kingsmen is to put you in the captain’s chair to give you all the information and transparency needed to successfully react to change by making informed decisions. Ultimately, we are crafting your product and you are in the best position to know what is most important to you and your stakeholders.

Change, the subject

“So there you have it, honey. Planning a vacation is just like planning a software product—spend the effort on a solid plan up-front, continuously adjust your plan as conditions change, and understand the implications of the trade-offs.”

“Kevin, you are a dork. If I agree with you, can we start sorting thru our pictures now?”


About Kingsmen Software

Kingsmen Software is a software development company that crafts high-quality software products and empowers their clients to do the same. Their exclusive approach, The Kingsmen Way, combines processes, tooling, automation, and frameworks to enable scalability, efficiency, and business agility. Kingsmen’s craftsmen can be found collaborating in the historic Camden Cotton Mill at the corner of 5th and Graham in Charlotte, NC.

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