As the 2016 Summer Olympics drew to a close, Michael Phelps had won four gold medals and two silver – making him the most successful athlete over the past four Olympic games, with a total medal count of 28. These successes, alongside several world records (and my best attempt to pretend as though the Phelps vs. Shark thing never happened), set the swimmer apart from many athletes and solidified Phelps’ place in sports history.
When InsideScience recently asked Phelps about the strategy behind his professional success, the Olympian was quick to identify visualization and preparation as important parts of his training. I found this particularly interesting, because these same things play an important part in ensuring a positive and productive software build. Who would have thought that readying for the 200-meter butterfly and creating a successful app would have so much in common?
PLANNING YOUR NEXT SOFTWARE PRODUCT?
HERE ARE 4 THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE JUMPING IN. READ ON
And I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t mention a third thing that Phelps’ approach to training and a thoughtful digital strategy have in common: A need for a healthy balance of preparation and participation. Meaning, if Phelps had only visualized and prepared to swim, but never actually leapt into the water, the past few Olympic games would have looked considerably different. The same can be said for how best to approach software development.
So, just how do you balance preparation and participation as you embark on your next build? Consider beginning with these four steps.
1. Define goals with measurable success criteria.
It is common to hear companies say they are building an app or launching a new set of features to improve customer satisfaction or drive revenue, but without specific success criteria around such business goals, they can be perceived differently by different parties – leaving the door open for disappointment, frustration, costly reworks, and even project failure. Defining your goals based on measurable success criteria – such as decreasing errors by X, increasing sales by Y, or reducing patient wait times by Z – allows your project team to develop a digital strategy that supports success from Day 1.
2. Develop the right solution to support your business goals.
While it can be easy to decide to “just build an app,” it’s important to make strategy and design a big part of your process. This means determining what your business wants/needs to accomplish with its new technology (before a single line of code is written), and how market demands and competitive positioning may influence your timeline and approach. It also means taking time on the front end to get to know your users and what they really need from your software solution.
3. Run at it with a “continuous improvement” mindset.
While Michael Phelps was born with a set of talents that positioned him for greatness in the swimming pool, he would not have reached such a high level of success without continuously improving his skills by measuring them against past performances. By combining measurable success criteria with an iterative approach to design and development, you can make incremental changes that can be evaluated and improved upon over time – a key to success in today’s constantly changing business environment.
4. Jump in as soon as possible.
While planning and preparation are important, it’s equally important to not get stuck in “analysis paralysis.” Planning, much like documentation, within Agile projects should be “just enough.” What’s “just enough” for your project? That depends on a variety of factors, such as regulatory constraints, time to market, risk, and the maturity of your team. Regardless, preparation and visualization only go so far, so, yes, prepare adequately – but then leap into the water!
We will dive in (Pun intended!) to this topic in more detail in our upcoming webinar, “Look Before You Leap: The Value of Software Planning & Prototyping”, later this month. There’s so much more to learn, so I hope you’ll join us.
Brian Purdes is a Solutions Principal with digital health consulting company PointClear Solutions.
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