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ThoughtWorks finally moves “product over project” from trial to adopt!
November 29th, 2015 by Joca

ThoughtWorks is a well known software development company which is always one step ahead of the rest of the software industry. Many people who contributed and continue to contribute to our industry are – or were – ThoughtWorkers. Martin Fowler, Jeff Patton, Neal Ford, Jim Highsmith, Rebecca Parsons, Ola Bini, Jim Webber, Luca Bastos, Paulo Caroli, Claudia Melo are just a small sample of people who work – or worked – there and have contributed a lot for the evolution of the software industry.

Since 2010 they publish a document called Technology Radar where they talk about their view on techniques, languages, platforms and tools for software development. This view is based on the experience from their consultants who work on a variety of software development endeavours from customers all over the world. They classify the techniques, languages, platforms and tools in four main categories:

  • Hold: when placed in this band, the item may be of interest to ThoughtWorks and others in the industry. However it is their opinion that the item is not ready to invest significant time and resources in which to build experience.
     
  • Assess: a technique, tool, language or platform that moves into the assess band of the radar is something that they believe is worth exploring with the goal of understanding how it will affect the technology impacted dimensions of your enterprise.
     
  • Trial: having established a radar item as something worth pursuing, it is important to understand how to build up this capability. Enterprises should look to trial the technology on projects that have a risk profile capable of taking onboard a new technology or approach.
     
  • Adopt: is the final stage that is of interest to them on the radar. Here they feel that the industry has begun to move beyond the trial phase and has found the proper patterns of usage for an item. An item may also appear in the adopt band if they feel strongly that the industry should be adopting a radar item now, rather than going through a more gradual adoption approach.

In May 2015 I was quite pleased when May’s Technology Radar edition brought “Products over Projects” as new technique and already recommended it as TRIAL. This showed that ThoughtWorks started to believe that software development should not be viewed as a project with a clear start and finish, but rather as a product, developed to support business processes of the owner of the software. This software will have a long life cycle, so long as the life cycle of the business processes it supports. For this reason, software development should not be viewed as a project with a predictable end, but rather as a product, a tool that will support the business processes for as long as the business processes exist.

I wrote about the differences between a product and a project back in 2011 and the more I work with software development, the more it get clearer to me that we should manage software development as a product, with a long lifecycle, with an unpredictable end. For this reason product management is so important for software development.

From trial to adopt

When I saw the November 2015 Technology Radar edition I was even more pleased when I saw that ThoughtWorks decided to move “products over projects” from trial to adopt. Doing so they now consider software product management as a technique that they feel strongly that the industry of software should be adopting in order to increase the chances of success of their software. Here it is in their own words:

We’ve long been championing the idea that thinking of software development as a project – something budgeted and delivered during a limited time slot – doesn’t fit the needs of the modern business. Important software efforts need to be an ongoing product that supports and rethinks the business process it is supporting. Such efforts are not complete until the business process, and its software, cease to be useful. Our observation of this products over projects approach, both with our own projects and outside, makes us determine that it is the approach to use for all but exceptional cases.

Certainly this will help people all over the world in creating better software, which will meet the needs of their customers while helping the software owners reach their objectives.

This is a great step forward for the software industry! This is great step forward for software product management! \o/

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