Speed, efficiency and constant disruption are what characterise and define today’s business environment. For those that cannot innovate, adapt and respond quickly to the market, survival is dubious (at best). Within the realm of enterprise software development, it is critical to have a structure in place that can respond to two major challenges within this environment: the need to mitigate risk, and the mandate of meeting the client’s brief and specific business needs (specifically within a timeframe that allows the business to have the competitive edge without compromising the quality of the software being created). Both of these challenges require a software development approach that is founded upon agility and adaptability.
As any development project unfolds and progresses, there is a continually shifting dynamic – whereby the demands of the customer, the technical teams, and the development and quality assurance managers have to be constantly balanced. While a perfect balance may never be achieved, it is the process of navigating these shifting dynamics that ultimately determines the success or failure of the finished product [bespoke enterprise software].
To ensure that this process unfolds in a way that both mitigates risk and supports innovation, we have Four Roles or Guardians that together guide each development project: the Product Owner, Senior Development Manager, Head Architect and Quality Assurance Specialist.
Balancing Technical Perfection and Enterprise Efficiency
The Product Owner is primarily there to ‘fight’ for the customer. This person has a deep understanding of the customer’s business and domain, and is also able to promote innovation and idea generation within that business. The Product Owner not only ensures that the customer’s needs and expectations are met, but he/she also plays a major role in developing the initial specs of the project. Their role is far removed from the technical aspects, and entirely focused on the business and its objectives/desired outcomes.
Moving from the customer to the software development team, the Senior Development Manager ensures that the internal team delivers on the outcomes/specs that it committed to. This role requires a close relationship with the development team and a clear understanding of what makes it tick, i.e. which positions/roles are required, managing the workload, managing personal growth and development, checking that the team has the right tools and support, and ensuring that there is visibility and transparency across processes. The experienced Senior Development Manager allows for autonomy within the teams, while ensuring that deliverables and expectations are met (internally and externally).
The Head Architect is entirely focused on the technical elements of the process. This leader is the chief guardian of the software, and he/she works on creating best practices and blueprints to achieve the most impactful technical outcomes. The main focus, within this realm, is to develop software that has flexibility, extensibility and maintainability. Here, technical excellence is everything.
Finally, we come to the chief gatekeeper – the Quality Assurance Specialist. This person wields the final stamp of approval for any software that goes out, and he/she scrutinises every aspect (technical elements, usability, business impact, etc). The QA assesses the deliverables from a macro viewpoint, and ensures that it meets the brief and expectations of the customer as closely as possible. In addition, the QA makes sure that there is a standardized way of automating tests – which confirm that the quality of the finished product is world-class and ready for the enterprise.
These four chief guardians of the process, so to speak, work very closely and engage daily to guide the software development process. Each of these role players sits at an executive level within the company, and work together to manage the inevitable ebbs and flows of each design sprint.
With this structure in place, we can effectively mitigate risks – while delivering on customer expectations within the enterprise software environment. Such a structure is designed to enable agility and adaptability, so that we can meet customer expectations in a way that is efficient, structured and sustainable.
For any business today, it is critical to have a technology partner that can balance the enterprise need for speed and efficiency, with the technical need for agility and adaptability. Only when all these needs are met or balanced, do you get a finished product that can truly fuel growth and development within the enterprise.
By Gareth Hawkey, CEO of redPanda Software