To survive in today’s competitive software-development market, organizations need to build their capabilities around delivering the best service within customer-stipulated time frames and costs. Increasing productivity – the rate of output per amount of input – is the factor most likely to give an organization an edge over others.
Many software-development organizations have realized the importance of improved productivity, but they often approach it from the wrong direction. Most spend time and energy coming up with definitions and metrics for measuring productivity, but few actually reach a point where they work on improvements. Instead of waiting for the perfect productivity definition, these companies should continue with existing measurements and turn their focus toward increasing output and decreasing input. This can be accomplished by applying Lean principles to the software-development process. By identifying and eliminating wastes and employing key drivers, productivity is bound to increase.
Lean principles focus on reducing the lead time of any process and doing away with activities that do not add value, thus improving a company’s bottom line. Operating on Lean principles involves eliminating different kinds of waste associated with production. These wastes are organized into seven categories. Although the categories were originally designed for manufacturing situations, they can be adapted for a software-development environment, as shown in the table below.
|Original Seven Wastes of Lean Manufacturing and Their Software-Development Equivalents|
|Unnecessary inventory||Unnecessary or irrelevant information|
|Extra processing||Extra process steps|
|Unnecessary or excess motion||Excess effort|
To gain an understanding of where these wastes exist in software development, it helps to examine each category individually:
While it is important to identify the wastes in the software-development process, it is just as important to take the next step: instill the drivers that will reduce this waste. Making changes in the following eight areas will have a positive influence on productivity:
Once the wastes are eliminated and the drivers are in place, development companies can address their productivity-measurement systems and ensure they are competent so that the subsequent decisions are fact-based and actions are justified. But by making this conscious effort to eliminate wastes and improve the drivers first, companies will see a significant leap in organizational productivity.