An Executive’s Guide to Software Development: 15 Practices

Hugely successful businesses that have made their profits outside of tech are finally realizing how much more profit can be had from more tech-savvy. In an article for McKinsey, Chandra Gnanasambandam, Martin Harrysson, Rahul Mangla, and Shivam Srivastava say that in order to make software an advantage, executives need to make an earnest effort to understand its development. They recommend the software maturity diagnostic framework with 15 practices across five stages to define the software development life cycle:

  • Stage 1: Setup decisions: (1) cloud migration path, (2) platform choice, and (3) microservices/container architecture
  • Stage 2: Product management practices: (4) product management excellence and (5) human-centric design
  • Stage 3: Product development practices: (6) DevOps (CI/CD), (7) test automation and TDD, (8) API-based architecture, and (9) productivity and quality
  • Stage 4: Product-delivery practices: (10) analytics and use of telemetry, (11) A/B testing, and (12) community-driven development
  • Stage 5: Enabling elements: (13) portfolio management and product economics, (14) talent and governance, and (15) product security and risk management

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First, determining how software is set up is a strategic decision with long-term implications, and it should be treated as a major business investment that affects the company on different levels. After making software setup choices, effective product management is crucial to the software development cycle. Most leading software companies now look for product managers who are tech-savvy and have business expertise to align the IT-business perspectives into strategic practices. In product development practices, DevOps has catalyzed into a movement, and can be interpreted as an outgrowth of agile. It values collaboration between development and operations staff throughout all stages of the development lifecycle when creating and operating a service, and highlights the importance of operations in our increasingly service-oriented world.

More product delivery practices have also been enabled through cloud-based development, and as a result, companies are able to gather more data than ever before, allowing users to have live experiments. To implement and sustain all these practices, organizations need talents and capabilities to bring about the best user experience and constantly develop products. CEOs and other executives need to understand this, and ride the coming wave of cloud and Internet of Things technologies:

The point is that the C-suite has to take a more active role in how software is developed and make investments to build world-class software-development practices in their organizations. A modern company with any intentions toward industry or category leadership must be a great software company at its heart. Leaders of these firms need to have a secure understanding of how software development works and how to create an enabling organization around it.

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