In the software world, solutions development takes place as a response to a specific problem statement. However, if the initial problem statement remains unsolved, all the money, effort, and time spent on software development is a waste, regardless of how efficiently it was invested.

For massive IT projects, where cycle times are longer, and feedback loops are much larger, the volume of waste increases exponentially. With IT integrated into so many aspects of the organization, these colossal wastes can sink the entire enterprise.

So, what are these wastes, and how can software teams efficiently manage them? Let’s find out!

In the software world, solution development happens in response to a specific problem statement. If, after all the money, effort, and time going into software development, if the initial problem statement remains unsolved, all the effort, irrespective of how efficiently it was invested, is a waste.

For massive IT projects, where cycle times are longer, and feedback loops much larger, the volume of wastes goes up incrementally. With IT touching so many aspects of the organization, these colossal wastes can sink the whole enterprise.

So, what are these wastes, and how can software teams efficiently manage them? Let’s find out!

The challenge of software manufacturing wastes

Given the number of activities that application development entails, any activity that utilizes resources but does not add value to the end product/application is considered software manufacturing waste.

When looking at the bigger picture, the culmination of such wastes can spell doom for a project's delivery, and if left unchecked, can take an entire IT organization down. Being aware of the various software manufacturing wastes can help you to understand their impact and devise ways to curb them for better software development practices

Listed below are the seven most common software manufacturing wastes:

  1. Inventory: Any partially done work, will in no way add any value to the customer. In the software development lifecycle, until a product has passed through all stages, a lot of work is bound to be in progress. This includes requirements not yet designed, designs yet to be coded, code yet to be tested, features tested but not yet released, amongst others. In the absence of a go-ahead, very often, partially complete work remains on-hold and resources remain occupied in investments that produce no results.
  2. Waiting: Given the number of people that work on any software development project, delays are common: delays caused due to waiting for inputs from another function, the right infrastructure, reviews, next build, etc. The time that is lost waiting for something or someone to pick up a task is a major contributor to software development waste. When waiting causes a delay in testing fixing the defect later is not just time-consuming, it is also risky.
  3. Rework/quality defects: Although the pressure to produce error-free, high-quality software is at an all-time high, many products of human error are still committed to the code, which alone represents a major contributor to software manufacturing waste. The longer it takes to detect these errors the more costly they prove to beq for the project. Expenses that occur due to incomplete requirements, inadequate design, coding errors, incorrect environment(s), incorrect user documentation, etc. increase significantly if not detected during the early stages of development, and especially so after the product has been delivered.
  4. Overproduction/processing: Software development teams often dedicate a lot of time and resources on the development of extra features. What these teams fail to realize is that working on features that were not specifically requested by the customer will likely drain the team of its energy due to unnecessary coding, testing, and documentation, not only increasing code complexity, but also contributing to overhead in a significant way, in addition to creating potential failure points.
  5. Transportation: In today's world, software development teams span the globe. It is not uncommon for a programming team to be based in India, while the testing team is in Europe, and the deployment team in the US. When information passes through different teams in different time zones, it is bound to result in substantial software development waste. Every time a deliverable is handed off between teams in differing time-zones a substantial delay is incurred due to transportation which negatively impacts the bottom line.
  6. Underutilized resources/unused creativity: Every member of a software development team brings with them a unique set of capabilities that can enhance the quality and timeliness of the end product. Yet the majority of people in software teams are underutilized; their creativity left untapped. Underutilized resources and or unused creativity are major sources of waste, which must to be overcome to boost team productivity and morale, and drive better software development outcomes.
  7. Motion: In an effort to keep software development costs down, many IT organizations assign multiple projects and tasks to a handful of people, requiring them to switch between tasks on an ongoing basis. While this might seem like a practical solution, every time a team member needs to switch between tasks a significant amount of time is lost as that person gathers their thoughts and re-orients to the new task. For quality software development, continuous flow is a necessity for focus, productivity, and overall concentration. Every time this flow is interrupted it takes team members a lot of time to return to the previous level of focus, which can lead to substantial losses of time when taken together.

Here’s how you can effectively manage waste

When you gain awareness of the various sources of waste you will be in a better position to not only understand them, but to work out strategies for their elimination.

Here are a few things you can do to effectively manage software manufacturing waste:

• Reduce feedback cycle time: As software projects get increasingly complex, the size of a batch, or a unit of work starts to increase in size. Larger batches directly impact the risk profile; the bigger they are, the longer it takes to receive feedback. Longer feedback cycles will lead to a pile up of tasks or tickets in the queue, exponentially increasing the risk profile. Therefore, it is advisable to switch to lean product development, driving teams to reduce batch sizes, thereby reducing cycle times while increasing potential learning points over time. Since smaller batches clear the way for the prioritization of work, there is a continuous flow of development with shorter, predictable feedback cycles. Reducing batch sizes also helps constrain work in progress while accelerating time to market.

• Drive Enterprise Agility: New technologies are continually disrupting the software development landscape; customer demands are evolving, and the market is getting more and more competitive. Enterprise agility can enable IT teams to move faster, be more adaptable, and responsive to changing business dynamics at a reduced cost. For software teams that are looking to keep work in progress or inventory levels low while releasing to production as soon as possible, methodologies like Agile, Scrum and automation of CI/CD are your only weapons. Enterprise agility provides much-needed visibility into the software development lifecycle while allowing teams to leverage prioritization framework, achieve integrated traceability while driving continuous communication and collaboration. Through automation and integrated dashboards, teams can combine the efficiencies of scale with speed, flexibility, and resilience, allowing them to achieve unprecedented software manufacturing enterprise agility.

• Enable Integrated ALM: A more efficient way of curbing software manufacturing waste is to have Integrated ALM and DevOps in place. DevOps-enabled ALM ensures software products are supported well beyond initial development. It helps the teams manage product development more comprehensively and ensures operational delivery excellence by integrating governance, development, and maintenance activities. With a single view into the development process, teams are in a better position to define the workflow across the software development lifecycle (SDLC), including deliverables and milestones. Such transparency enables teams to drive better communication, align software objectives with business goals, improve traceability, and get their software up to speed in a competitive environment.

Improve Software Delivery Effectiveness

The software delivery world is constantly undergoing transformation. Teams must do what it takes to keep pace with these transformations; those who cannot adapt will end up losing the battle.

As every organization looks to maximize customer value, understanding and curbing software manufacturing waste becomes a priority. Several types of waste are caused due to motion, inventory, waiting, rework, overproduction, transportation, and underutilized resources.

IT organizations and software teams need to embrace policies and practices that can help them quickly identify and rectify sources of waste to enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of software delivery. This includes shortening feedback cycles, driving enterprise agility, and enabling integrated ALM. By discarding features and activities that do not add value to the end product, you can minimize wastes, maximize customer value, and improve the effectiveness of delivery for your teams.

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