The evolution of software product development

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The Lost Garden has an outstanding post by Danc – Software Development’s Evolution towards Product Design.

Danc writes about how the software development process has evolved over the years. He characterizes this evolution in four distinct phases.

  1. The technocrat era: Programmers serving programmers.
  2. The early business era: Programmers attempt to serve others.
  3. The late business era: Programmers and artists meet and do battle.
  4. The product design era: Can programmers and artists learn to work together?

His last era is the current era, and he details how first game-companies, and then Apple and web-design companies dominate. He also goes into some details about what the next era will be like. He shares Robert Cooper’s top nine core factors in product design success.
Quotes (and our comments)

From his third era:

None of the freshly introduced team members spoke one another’s language. The artists talked about fluff like color and mood. The marketing people made outrageous requests with zero comprehension about technical feasibility. The programmers were suddenly enslaved by bizarre, conflicting feature demands that they did not understand. “Make it friendlier” translates poorly into C++ code.

This is precisely the issue we talk about in Intimate domains where we highlight the need for requirements managers to be able to speak all the languages of team mebers. Team members also need to be able to interoperate across their contextual boundaries. This issue again comes up in Software requirements – process and roles where we talk about how several steps “have to happen”, and who may be best suited to perform each step.

In discussions for the future, Danc presents some compelling statistics:

The benefits of a product design process are well documented. New products that deliver superior, unique benefits to the customer have a commercial success rate of 98% compared to 18.4% for undifferentiated products. These products reach an outstanding 53.5% market share.

Wow! Hard to argue with that. Note that Danc lists 14 separate references for his data and arguments.

To the losers, the success of their rivals appears miraculous. “How is it that a slow web app can take away market share from our superior desktop application?” they ask in surprise.

I wonder if it was any different for the neanderthals when the homo-sapiens started to dominate Europe?

The feedback that Danc gets when telling this story:

“Well, it is about time.”

We agree – it is about time. And it was about time someone crafted the message as well as Danc and Lost Garden. Thanks!

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