Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Go faster!

Recently, a development group came to us and wanted to know how they could "go faster". Their users were demanding more and more changes, and they were having trouble keeping up. "Go faster", an interesting choice of words. Immediately I thought of a race car driver.

If I wanted to drive a car fast, what would I need? The first thing I thought of was a fast car. If I want to go fast, I'm going to need a car that can do it. What are some of the fastest cars out there? Indy cars are pretty fast, but I wouldn't have a clue how to drive one of them. So I guess I need to have knowledge to drive the car fast. I'm also going to need experience. The first time I drove a car, I wasn't driving on the highway during rush hour. I worked up to it. Alright, I got a fast car, I know how to drive it, and I have the experience to drive it fast. What else do I need? A race track would be good. I'm not going to go 200 mph around my neighborhood, nor would I want to go that fast on a dirt road.

So Car + Knowledge + Experience + Road = Fast.

What does that have to do with software development? A car is essentially a tool. When developing software, we use an IDE, build scripts, source control, and all sorts of other tools. We need to understand the problem that needs to be solved and the language we are going to use to solve it. Having a good understanding of development best practices and good software design comes with experience. Having a good process (path to follow) makes getting high quality code out the door so much easier.

So Toolset + Knowledge + Experience + Process = Fast.

There are some other interesting things to note about this analogy. You need all four things; otherwise, this equation does not work. I could be the most experienced driver on a race track, but my go kart just isn't going to win the race. I could have the fastest car, but without the knowledge and experience to drive it, I'm going to crash and burn. Likewise, if I have the car and the know-how, but I'm trying to go fast on a road littered with potholes, I'm going to have to slow down or I'll lose control.

This is true for software development, too. Not having the best toolset can really slow down even the most seasoned developer. If a newbie is handed the best development tools in the most organized environment, the lack of knowledge and experience is going to slow them down. Finally, a poor process is either going to slow down a project or completely derail it.

Happy driving.