31 Days in May — Day Nineteen — What am I looking at? Pt 3

4) The value (and dangers) of working software

Part of fully realising the value of the Orient phase of the OODA loop is understanding the value of working software and the different possible flavours of working software. As discussed above there is:

(stage 1 — Value x) software that works that’s just an interface;

there is:

(stage 2 — Value 10 x) software that talks to back-end servers, but on a test environment;

there is:

(stage 3- Value 100 x) software that has been deployed to a live environment, but no one has used

and finally there is:

(stage 4 — Value 1000 x) software that is deployed to a live environment, which is actually being used by users

and maybe, beyond that there is:

(stage 5- Value 10000 x) software that has been up and running and being used by users for a substantial amount of time without being hacked or falling over

It might not be exaggerating to say that each of these stages is up to TEN TIMES more valuable than the previous stage and it’s interesting to note that it’s only stage 5 of this process that can really deliver value, in the terms of money taken from customers, or time saved by employees, or value in some other way to the organisation.

It’s interesting then to see the many ways that leaders, sociopaths, product owners try to stop software from reaching the later stages. One of the most standard ways that software is prevented from reaching stage 3 is by insisting that it simply isn’t worth taking anything less than a “complete” application past stages 1 to 3. In its most naive forms this can mean insisting that everything is developed at front-end only interfaces before any other work is done and then back-end development, connection with databases, other systems and so on.

In reality, getting the first initial bits of functionality at least as far as stages 3 and 4, is probably even more valuable than 10 and 100 times the value of a working interface. If the team can get something working on an external sever and can get it used by real users, this provides an enormous amount of information.

Most important of, it shows that the organisation can arrange a platform where the code can be deployed and made available. This might sound like a trivial matter but in many organisations, especially in many large, bureaucratic organisations, it really isn’t.

Secondly it shows that the technical solution works, the the combination of hardware, operating system and the stack of software used to implement the solution all work together.

Thirdly, if people can use the system, it shows that people can use it. Pushing small amounts of software through to stage 3, and then stage 4 provides enormous amounts of information, and reassurance that stage 5 can be reached — and it’s only at stage 5 that there’s any real value that can be delivered to the organisation.

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