The Triad for Software Developer Needs
I have had the luxury of spending some time visiting budding entrepreneurs in a few incubator spaces. As I have listened to their excitement and enthusiasm for creating their businesses, I have spent a lot of time thinking about our business and what we look for in an ideal software project. There are a broad spectrum of projects that provide a development team stability, creativity, or time sensitivity. Each project type actually solves for different factors for a development team. In this article we’ll seek to explore those to help software teams identify what style of project they’ll be attacking at the onset, rather than later down the road realizing it.
Each project style typically maps to any of 4 company sizes or stages and depending on the demands of the stakeholder involved there may be some minor differences in Time or Team Pressures. First I’ll define the triad of measurement as perceived by the team involved in the project and then I’ll explain how I have observed the changes in that triad of measurement on each project style.
Stability: There are a few factors here, but mainly they are related to budget and longevity of the term of the project. The shorter the project the lower the stability, and the longer the project the higher the stability. Clients who can afford to pay a higher rate also can drive the stability of a project up, but frequently increasing rate has an adverse affect on Pressure.
Creativity: This is a measure of the team’s ability to choose their own direction to solve the client’s problem. Inclusive of Technical as well as Product direction to help push a client in the right direction to solve their goal. Creativity will be High when the team is given more freedom to solve the problem, and it will be Low when the path is clear or well defined by external forces. There can be some inverse affects on Stability when Creativity is High. Additionally higher Creativity measures can cause Pressure to go up. Frequently High Creativity projects will be given when Trust is pre-established via reputation or prior performance for the stakeholder.
Pressure: There are a few forms of pressure but usually I consider them to be Time based or Team based. Time pressure is simple and usually attributed to a tight or aggressive timeline for the delivery of the project at hand. Team based pressure can be caused by external factors like other vendors involved or peers around any individual on the team being better or significantly worse relative to the individual. Arguably Team pressure caused by surrounding peers being better than an individual will benefit the individual, but from a project and client perspective will not benefit either of them.
These projects tend to really satisfy a team’s desire to focus on Creativity at the cost of Stability. Stakeholders will likely be requiring a high time pressure to get to an MVP, but at times Time pressure can be variable based on a potential for part time involvement given the low stability. Frequently the term of a project like this will be measured in hours and weeks and likely would not fill the full amount of time available to a team. Planning a business around projects like this can help team members explore new technologies, but requires a steady stream and pipeline of these projects to run a sustainable business.
Seed Round Startup
These projects tend to favor Creativity albeit ever slightly constrained by a larger team but with similar Time pressure. Frequently Stability will be higher here in terms of business planning due to a more likely client stability. Expectations around stability in terms of project length are still measured at best in months but frequently in weeks. It’s hard to equate the Creativity of Seed sized projects to those of Entrepreneurship projects, as these are frequently more dedicated engagements than true Entrepreneurship sized projects, as the latter is regularly volunteer based to help it reach this size.
Medium Sized Business
As can be seen in the diagram, this is the equilateral triangle of measured projects and rides the “just right” for business planning and individual team member satisfaction along with the right amount of time and team pressure. This can be a very comfortable place for teams to operate in, but it can also create a feeling of complacence for a company or team causing them to slowly stagnate and not be challenged to increase their skills and innovate. The term of a project like this could easily be measured in quarters and likely would exceed a year of dedicated engagement.
This is the style of project that prioritizes long term stability for individuals on the team and also business planning for the company providing a service. The obvious cost here is creativity as many of the individuals will be required to operate within an existing larger enterprise structure with more bureaucracy to navigate. Time and Team pressure can vary here, frequently in early stage enterprise projects the economics will dictate a high time pressure, but later stages of the project may decrease it. Sometimes in larger bureaucracies typically found in enterprise projects individual team members will suffer from adverse team pressures from underperforming teammates. This also has an effect that tends to stifle creativity. These projects tend to provide a safe place for business planning but given their longevity tend to have a lifetime of no more than three years.
Frequently as Neosavvy is trying to assess it’s way forward we’ll consider the different style of projects and prioritize based on the landscape of available project work environment. We tend to favor Creativity over Stability but there have been times where Stability has been nice on our team. Time pressure is regularly not something we fear, but embrace and welcome.
If you find yourself trying to plan for your freelance software development or design career and want to consult with someone who has been down that road a time or two, please contact me. If you are a product manager or leader within your organization challenged by a stagnating culture looking to shake things up, we enjoy that conversation too.