Pick your battles…

Designing software is a bit like fighting a war.  There are battles on many fronts, and as the ‘general’ of your army, it’s important to direct your ‘troops’ where they will have the greatest impact, without leaving a gaping hole in your defences through which the enemy can pass.

In software design, the threats are plentiful: bad management decisions, poorly defined requirements, bad technology choices, scope creep, regulatory change, personnel change, budget cuts, overpromising sales people, lack of time, lack of skill and so on…

As the ‘general’ you know that you cannoy possibly fight every threat all at the same time – you’d end up with many ‘overs’ – over-stretched, over-stressed and over-whelmed!

What’s important is to pick your battles – look for the areas in which small changes can deflect immediate threats.  Look for the ‘low hanging fruit’ – in other words, the things that you can influence now.

If your project doesn’t have clear requirements, work with the business to get some.  If your timescales appear unrealistic, take a step back and re-scope.  If your sales people over-promise, take the time to educate them as to what is and what isn’t achievable.

There will always be battles that you cannot really win – the much wider-ranging changes, such as changing regulation, competitors, the economy – and you need to accept that you can only roll with the punches, come what may.

By picking the battles that you can win, your development project will be better prepared to endure and possibly better placed to actually turn these threats into opportunities.

About John Clark

My name is John Clark and I previously ran a software house called Reynard Thomson, from which this blog originally grew. In the meantime, we launched a video-based user testing service (Kupima) which didn't really take off, and I have since moved into a new field specialising on software-based research & development consultancy. I'm active on LinkedIn, and would love to connect to anyone who has an interest in software prototyping or R&D: http://uk.linkedin.com/in/jtclarkuk/
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2 Responses to Pick your battles…

  1. Alex says:

    Although you geared this towards software development, I think this is an awesome post for all businesses. “…take a step back and re-scope.” That is a really valuable quote.

    • Thanks, Alex, and I’m glad you liked the post. Most people these days are really pressurised, time-wise, and so it’s always worth trying to prioritise the work we do versus the work we choose to set aside, and one of the best ways to do that is to take some time out to reflect, chew it over, sleep on it (delete as applicable)…

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