Newsletter Issue: "Transparency"

Hello everyone,

Surprise! I'm finally back to writing again. Adjusting to the new reality around us has taken me a while. Thank you for your patience, and I hope you'll find this week's message to be helpful as we all try to forge ahead with our projects.

This week, I'd like to circle back to the topic of transparency that I touched upon in a recent issue. I chose the example of attending a baseball game as a metaphor. You wouldn't pay money for tickets if you couldn't watch the action on the field, right?

You should treat software projects just like going to a ballgame. Your dev shop should be transparent about their progress on a continual basis. You shouldn't have to wait until the end to discover that the software wasn't built properly in the first place.

Now, let's get practical. Just exactly how should the development team expose their progress to you? You certainly don't want to hear about every gory technical detail that the team is working on.

The answer depends a bit on the kind of application you're building.

For a web-based application, you should be given a live URL that you can visit anytime to see how things are coming along. What you see won't change every day (usually), but the site should be updated on a regular basis.

For a native application (iOS or Android), the developer should be pushing app updates on a regular basis.

Now, what exactly does "on a regular basis" mean? There are lots of fancy formulas in the literature that try to define the length of a software iteration. In my experience, a simple rule of thumb will suffice:

  • If the entire project is expected to be completed in 3 months or less, you'll want to see progress every week.
  • If the entire project is expected to be completed 3 to 6 months, you'll want to see progress every two weeks.
  • If the entire project is expected to take longer than 6 months, you'll want to see progress every month, until you get to the last two months of the project, at which point you'll want weekly updates.

I'm happy to take questions on why the project timeline can be used to determine the software cycle time - just hit REPLY and let me know.

One last thing to keep in mind: in the universe of software construction, there's a strong gravitational pull toward non-disclosure. It is hard, uphill work for the developers to follow through on a commitment to transparency. Human nature and a tendency to "squeeze in one more thing before we show the client" will fight against the desire for regular, published updates.

That's it for this week. In these COVID-19 times, I'd love to hear from you. Are you working on something interesting? Are you facing any special challenges in your clinical research right now? Or perhaps just leave word to say that you're doing ok! I am finding that right now, connection to others is more meaningful to me than ever.

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