Lean Software

Lean

You’re working hard on your business so you can achieve your life’s dreams and goals.  Because there are only so many hours in a day, as an entrepreneur you need to make sure those hours are focused on delivering value to your customers.  And chances are you also don’t have a lot of resources, so efficient use of your time and those resources is paramount to your success and achieving your goals.  With customers asking you to do more, your days and business can start to feel a little out of control.  But don’t despair, there’s a decades-old methodology to help you.  If you aren’t familiar with Lean, then let this be the first step on your journey.

The history of Lean starts out over 100 years ago with Benjamin Franklin, Frederick Winslow Taylor and on the manufacturing floor with Ford’s Model T.  Over many decades, Lean evolved to become a methodology focused on  reducing waste and maximizing customer value.  It also started to be applied outside of manufacturing to areas such as software development, business processes and startups.  Using web-app development as an example, below are some examples of the Lean principal Eliminate Waste and how you can start applying it today in your business.

Work in Progress (“WIP”)

Work in Progress is really a combination of two areas, Partially Done Work and the related Task Switching.  These are two examples of Waste because of the high cost associated with context switching.  For instance, if you’re working on developing a feature uninterrupted, chances are that feature will be fully developed and go thru your test process with few defects because of your continued focus on the feature’s development.  On the other hand, if you’re in the middle of developing a feature and get distracted with other tasks (or text/email/phone/social networking), a few things can happen.  First, as a rule-of-thumb, you’ll waste 20-30 minutes because you’ll need time to ramp back up on developing the feature.  Secondly, chances are there will be more defects during testing because you didn’t have that continuous focus and probably forgot a technical detail after the distraction.  Defects are a waste because they require time to fix and aren’t of value to customers.  When developing a feature in your app, find an environment free of distractions and turn off email/text/phone/social networking so you can complete the feature at one time.

Churn and Deliver Fast

Churn and Deliver Fast have been combined because they are also interrelated forms of Waste.  Churn basically means your customer requirements are constantly changing and because they are changing, you either can’t get started developing a feature or your features never get completed (see WIP from above).  One way to overcome Churn is to Deliver Fast which also fits in nicely with Lean Startup’s Build-Measure-Learn process.  While requirements are important, from a Lean perspective of providing value to your customers, customers are not paying you for their requirements; they’re paying you to deliver a functional app.  So the quicker you can get a piece of functionality to your customers, the better.  Put yourself in your customer’s shoes for a moment.  If you were the customer, would you prefer to go back and forth on a requirements document and detail everything out (which is practically impossible) or would you rather get new versions of the app and provide feedback?  With bubble, the cycle time to create and deliver a function in your app can be minutes.  This allows your customer to see exactly what the feature will look like and how it’ll behave; a powerful capability for getting customer feedback.

Code Re-use

While Code Re-use doesn’t fall in the “classic” list of Eliminate Waste, I’m adding it because re-creating features that already exists is a form of Waste.  Re-using code from your other apps or starting an app using a template can save you many hours of development time.  Since a lot of apps will have some level of common functionality, i.e. a login, create user accounts, messaging between users, etc. there’s less need to start from scratch.  Remember, you’re trying to reduce waste (save time) and deliver value to customers as quick as possible.  Re-using code can provide you big leverage.

Summary

Creating a business is hard work and statistically most will fail.  However, by applying these Lean ideas on Eliminating Waste, you can increase you chances of success and minimize the risk of your business being a statistic.  You’re working hard on achieving your goals and dreams; applying these Lean concepts can be a game-changer.

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