There are a lot of reasons to want to accelerate your product development. You may want to get your product to market quicker, increase your team’s productivity, or just clean up waste in your current processes.
However, you can’t just start with a directive to your team to “speed things up”; this will lead to failure, either by sacrificing quality or burning out your team members. Instead, here are 5 tips for accelerating your product build without risking failure.
Organize Your Work
The first step you can take to accelerate your development is to actually take a step back and examine your plan and your goals. By spending time solidifying your roadmap, you can identify what dependencies you have and identify roadblocks in order to address them as soon as possible.
By using a project management tool like DevStride, you can organize your backlog, estimate the amount of work that needs to be completed, and prioritize it in the way that makes the most sense for your business.
Beware of unattainable goals. If your team estimates that the work is going to take 3 weeks, chances are it won’t be completed in 3 days, even if you ask nicely. Use your organizational time to help set achievable goals and milestones.
Set up Guardrails
Once you identify and prioritize your work, it’s time to consider your processes. If your team doesn’t currently have a clearly defined process for addressing work, try implementing an agile methodology like Scrum or Kanban. Whatever your team's preferred methodology, review the process as a team and identify any weak spots or places where work is duplicated.
Additionally, there are development guardrails that can enable the team to safely speed up work. Depending on the project, your team should follow best practices for Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD), utilize automated testing, define infrastructure-as-code (IaC), and limit the amount of work that they have open at any given time.
Beware of processes that sacrifice quality, such as skipping testing or code reviews. While these may save you time up front, they will cost you time in the long run.
Once you’ve decided how your team is going to work, identify and implement a set of metrics that can help you track your progress toward your goals and identify problem areas in your processes.
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to your metrics. Depending on your processes and what matters to your team, you may choose to measure different aspects of the process. A team focused on getting a new product to market will be more interested in metrics like velocity or throughput than a team working on support tickets, who may be more interested in the number of bugs or the burndown of an overall backlog.
Beware of leaning too much on any one metric – implement multiple metrics that complement one another and use them as a set to achieve a better understanding of the overall picture.
Enable Your Team
During this entire process, make sure that your team feels enabled and supported. Consider whether they have all the tools they need to work efficiently. Take team feedback seriously. If team members say something isn’t working well, do what you can to help remedy the issue. If your team feels happy and enabled, chances are they’ll be more productive.
One important step that can often be overlooked is to give your team space to work on the project. You’ve built a professional team and have handed them the right tools; trust them to complete their work on the schedule they’ve committed to. Don’t hover or try to micromanage the process.
Beware of the temptation to add more team members to speed up your product build. Adding team members can actually slow down your project. (Brook’s Law)
Monitor and Adjust
Once your system of metrics is in place and your team has been working for a while, don’t forget to reference the data. Use both the metrics and team feedback to identify bottlenecks and problem areas and adjust your processes and tools accordingly.
Unless you work in a highly regulated field that requires it, none of your processes should be set in stone. It’s important to be flexible and find what works best for your product and team.
Beware of making too many adjustments over too short of a period. Projects, metrics, and teams are all at their best when they’re stable.
Remember that the process of speeding up your product build won’t happen overnight – or even over a single cycle!– but many small improvements will add up to make your entire product development process faster and more efficient over time.