Edward Capriolo

Tuesday Jan 12, 2016

'No deal' is better than a 'Bad Deal'

After working for a few companies a few things have become clear to me. Some background, I have been at small companies with no code, large companies with little code, small companies with a lot of code, and large companies where we constantly re-write the same code. 

I was watching an episode of 'shark tank'. Contestant X had a product, call it 'Product X', and four of the five sharks offered nothing. The 5th shark, being very shark like, used this opportunity to offer a 'bad' deal. The maker of 'Product X' thought it over, refused the deal, and left with no deal. The other sharks were more impressed with 'Contestant X' than Product X'. They remarked that , "No deal is better than a Bad Deal". This statement is profound and software products should be managed the same way.

Think about the phrase tech-debt. People might say tech-debt kills your agility. But it is really not the tech-debt alone that kills your agility, it is 'bad deals' that lead to tech debt. As software gets larger it becomes harder to shape and harder to manage. At some point software becomes very big, and change causes a cascade of tech debt. Few people want to remove a feature. Think about Mokeys on a Ladder, and compare this to your software. Does anyone ever ask you to remove a feature? Even if something is rarely used or never used someone might advocate keeping it, as it might be used later. Removing something is viewed as a loss, even if it really is addition by subtraction. Even if no one knows who asked for this rule people might advocate keeping it anyway! Heck even if you find the person who wanted the feature and they are no longer at the company, and no one else uses it, people might advocate keeping it anyway!

The result of just-keep-it thinking is you end up keeping around code you won't use, which prevents you from easily adding new code. How many times have your heard someone say, 'Project X (scoff)!? That thing is a mess! I can re-write that in scala-on-rails in 3 days'. 4 weeks later when Project X on-scala-on-rails is released a customer contacts you about how they were affected because some small business rule was not ported correctly due to an over-site.

The solution to these over-sites is not test-coverage or sprints dedicated to removing tech-dept. The solution is never to make a bad deal. Do not write software with niche cases. Do not write software with surprising rules. The way I do this is a mental litmus test: Take the exit criteria of an issue and ask yourself, "Will I remember this rule in one year". If someone asks you to implement something and you realize it was implemented a year ago and no one ever used it, push back let them know the software has already gone in this direction and it led no where. If your a business and your struggling to close deals because the 'tech people' can not implement X in time, close a deal that does not involve X.

'No deal' is better than a 'Bad Deal'

'No code' is better than 'Bad Code'

'No feature' is better than 'Bad Feature' 




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